It’s been a Guitar Fest here in NYC lately. I’ve seen Bill Frisell (always superb), Kenny Burrell (a very rare pleasure because he hates to fly) and Mike Marino (with new Blue Note pianist Aaron Parks). Tonight is a tribute to Fender's Jazzmaster guitar headlined by Nels Cline, J. Mascis, Thurston Moore and Tom Verlaine. Must be frets in the water or something.
The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia? Now in its second revised and updated printing? Does any one person, even a momentous artist who now seems determined to die on the stage (to steal a quote from the great Midnight Cowboy) really need or deserve their own encyclopedia?
These days I often have to stop myself and remember again that I need to write about music and not just the incredibly weird situation in which today's music business is both dying and rising from the ashes simultaneously.
There it was again. Goosebumps. Even a grainy old out–of–synch YouTube video of a 1986 sound check at Maxwell's in Hoboken still evoked a shiver. At the risk of living in the rock 'n' roll past, The Replacements were one of the best bands, bar or otherwise, that I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Over the years I saw Westerberg, Mars and the Stinson Bros many, many times. I saw them when they were riotously drunk, careening from one tune to the next, never finishing any of them. I saw them once at an unbilled gig do not a note of their own music, preferring instead to rip through TV themes: Batman followed by Bewitched followed by The Flintstones... I saw them jacked up on God knows what, painting their shoes and whipping bologna from a deli tray all over their dressing room. Through it all, with the possible exception of when Bob Stinson was kicked out for getting a little too addictive, they had a ball. When it got serious near the end, around the time of Don’t Tell a Soul, it was for all intensive purposes, over. They were the best thing to come out of the once vaunted Minnesota scene—okay, after Prince—and whether they liked it or not, one of the originators of the whole "alt" rock thang.
Amongst all the hand–ringing and head–scratching and kvetching about the music business and what we're going to do with our CDs and LPs and how iPods sound like shit but are the future whether we like it or not (in my case, the jury's still out), it's a good idea, at least in my overamped case, to step back, close–a–dee mouth and occasionally remember that at the bottom of all this claptrap, there's still music. Which I (we) presumably still love.
In Aural Robert in the April issue of Stereophile, Amoeba owner David Prinz and I discuss his label, Amoeba Records, and his ongoing program to reissue Gram Parsons live sets. Needless to say however, I also talked with him about the ever more bizarre situation that the record business now finds itself in. As the owner of the biggest and best independent record stores on planet Earth, his opinion carries more than a little weight. Here's a sampling of what he said about the biz and the specter of iTunes.
Writing about the idiocy known as the Grammy Awards Show just isn't that much fun anymore. I used to take great glee is slicing and dicing them but they’ve been so dumb for so long that, to quote Mr. King (as in B.B.): the thrill is gone. That said, I now look at it as live comedy, of the squirm in your seat variety. It's always mildly amusing to see the U.S/U.K. music business make an ass of itself for the entire world to see. In no particular order here's a few Grammy 2007 observations.
On one of those occasions when the camera whirled down and across the crowd, I saw Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, looking very adult-like, and his wife sitting in a coveted aisle seat. He's come up in the world. His band's Sky Blue Sky was nominated for Best Rock Album but lost out to the Foo Fighters.
Sinatra and Keys? A tragic mistake for her. Showed how limited her talent is, but then anyone would come up short against Frank. That little sound/image synch problem did not help. A bad idea gone wrong.
Tina and Beyonce. Tina looked spectacular at 69 and sounded even better. She is a wonder of nature. And plastic surgery. Beyonce? Damn, the woman has dancer thighs doesn't she? She looked and sounded very nervous. Of course again, she was matched, not to her advantage, with a masterful singer. Maybe the whole young/old thing needs a rethink.
Liked the commercials for Garth Brooks Greatest Hits records.
The Jerry Lee Lewis/Little Richard/John Fogerty segment was fairly amazing. The Killer, who has been rumored to be on death's door for at least the last decade, looked jowly as hell but was still having fun. Little Richard, on the other hand, was oddly waxen looking (yes, more than normal) and was downright grim when he played. It did occur to me that that performance could well be Jerry Lee's final television appearance, the last glimpse America will ever get, of one of the more unforgettable creators of rock ‘n ‘roll.
Thank God Michael Jackson didn’t show up to pay tribute to Thriller. The freak quotient was off the map to begin with.
Seeing and hearing Keely Smith was great. Kid Rock however is the same untalented dope he's always been. His only redeeming quality is his respect for rock's elders, which still ain't enough to make me say anything but: why does this man have a music career?
Loved the look on people's faces when Doris Day’s name was mentioned. Ooohh was that a LONG time ago.
Andy Williams looked like Andy Williams if he were one hundred and ten years old. It’s testament to what performing in Branson, Mo. ad nauseum will do to ya. And poor squinting Tony Bennett did not a whole lot better.
Great choice on Herbie Hancock. Blew everyone's mind. In a good way.