One of the weirdest musical phenomena that I know of is the symbiotic relationship between really bad music, mostly classic rock schlock, played at maximum volume, and professional sporting events. I mean have you ever been to an NFL game where you didn’t hear Ozzy Osbourne’s "Crazy Train"? And let's not even discuss the NBA where the prospect of being exposed to more Kelly Clarkson or the All American Rejects keeps me from even thinking of attending.
Now that we're perched upon the precipice of the Simpson Movie opening—at least a decade too late—I, by chance, I caught the Hullabalooza episode with the Smashing Pumpkins this week, the one where Homer becomes part of the "pageant of the transmundane," by being shot in the stomach with a cannonball.
Just the other evening, a friend, coworker and fellow old record enthusiast, Brian Laboe, and I were saddled up at our neighborhood watering hole, sipping overpriced craft beer and talking about funk bands from the 70’s which happens to be a passion we share.
Reissues. Hey, I don't care who you are, everyone has a guilty pleasure that's now been reissued on CD, possibly with bonus goodies. What's gonna happen to reissues in the big, new, alldigital, alldownload, allthetime world is an easy one: listeners will do the same thing they do with new records, download the tracks they want and leave the lesser tracks as scraps. Funny how it's now possible to think of cuts of meat and record albums in the same breath: bites of choice flesh you eat surrounded by bone, fat and gristle you leave. It must make musicians feel real good to see their collection eviscerated in this way. You can say it serves them right for filling out albums with lesser tracks but then there's that creeping alchemy that happens upon further listening when some of the tracks deep into the record become essential. How many album tracks have you grown fond of after repeated listens versus those that jumped out at you the first time you dropped the needle or pressed play?
Seeing John Prine the other night on Governor’s Island with Stereophile's Stephen Mejias was a fairly profound experience, owing to Prine’s strange, elegiac tone. It may be that he wasn’t down with the venue (a windy island at night) or that he was simply tired (he looked it), but almost everything he sung, even the fun ones like, “Please Don’t Bury Me,” had an odd sadness clinging to it. I tried not to think about how Prine beat cancer back in 1998. The first time I saw him backstage after the cancer had been cut and radiated out of his throat, he cracked a smile and chirped, “Well Robert, this is what happens when you start smoking when you’re 14. What did I expect?” Thankfully his voice and his irascible disposition returned undiminished by the illness. He’s lost some tissue in his neck and his voice did indeed get a little growlier, but overall he was extremely lucky. I prefer to ascribe his lonely tone last Friday to the fact that he’s been singing some of those songs for 40 years and just decided to give them a different emotional bent in New York. Truly though I have never seen a Prine show that wasn’t laced with jokes, spot on wisecracks and sly references to the current world history. And never have I heard one of his signature songs “Donald and Lydia,” done so beautifully, its chorus lines turned into a near prayer:
“But dreaming just comes natural
Like the first breath from a baby,
Like sunshine feeding daisies,
Like the love hidden deep in your heart.”
Last week, I had the honor and the pleasure of interviewing Bill Frisell in front of an audiencein what’s called a “Jazz Conversation,”at this year’s edition of the Portland Jazz Festival. Held at the Art Bar in the Portland Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA), our chat was podcast by the Oregonmusicnews.com and can be heard here.
When Sound + Vision splashed Tom Petty’s still remarkably vital mug across a recent cover it caught my attention. Inside, across 12 pages, they basically anointed his new record Mojo, as disc of the year. So Petty’s blues record, one that was a long time comin’, is the best album of 2010? No offense to Mike Mettler and Ken Richardson, both of whom I consider friends, but the whole thing seemed like a stretch to me.