Sunday, May 28, 2006

Gnarls/Lavender/Air/Rotary Connection

This was my attempt to rub up on some Zeitgeist (the Zeitgeist ain't so bad; just watched the entire first episode of Lost on DVD. OH MAN!). I'd been iffy on Cee-lo despite Killough's enthusiam. The Perfect Imperfections was just too bragadocious for me. But Danger Mouse has had my respect since The Grey Album, and the hype on St. Elsewhere proved irresistble. Bravo, hype! This album is deep, soulful, catchy, sad, funny... I could do without the Gone, Daddy, Gone cover, but Crazy is irresistble, Hey Ya for a country in a quagmire.

As Blade likes to remind me I'm not colorblind (so there's no excusing my so frequently dressing entirely in green). But I am color ignorant, so when Jeffrey at Wall of Sound pointed at a wall of...sounds...and said, "The lavender one," well, he had to come over. This is lushly gorgeous orchestral folk with a female singer Vashti Bunyan wouldn't kick out of her peat bog. Real strings! I'm guessing bigger things for these guys. I mean, "bigger" as in the world where Joanna Newsome is big. This was a new one but only six dollars and an ep, so it doesn't count, right?

My used disc of the week. I didn't like these guys when the movie came out and Vegh was listening to this soundtrack (and I didn't love the movie either), but I like 'em now. Not an exciting purchase, sure, but just the thing to put on when your stuck working an overnight shift and your sweet wife brings you sushi.

So my deal is one new and one used per week, but if I have to special order something then that's just gravy. Vegh put "I am the Black Gold of the Sun" on a mix disc a few months ago and it blew my mind. I had to hear more Rotary Connection. So I got on-line and scored Songs, Hey Love, Alladin, Dinner Music, and Peace used and cheap. Imagine a mix of Fifth Dimension, Mamas and Pappas, and Sly and the Family Stone, and you've got some idea of Rotary Connection. The son of the founder of Chess Records put this act together in the late '60's and must've thought he's struck gold. He should've but he didn't. Minnie Riperton went on to legend status on her own, but RC didn't have any hits. In a perfect world everyone would know "I am the Black Gold..." and be as excited as I am for Christmas so they can play Peace, the best Christmas album to have both a Fugs meets Funkadelic Silent Night and a song advancing the argument that Santa is "smoking that misletoe." After all, "if he was cool he'd come through the door." Indeed.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


The only thing lamer than buying a greatest hits collection is worrying that buying a greatest hits collection is lame. Besides, the specially-priced price was right, and my recent enjoyment of The Small Faces' Ogden's Nut Gone Flake reminded me I'd been meaning to get some Faces ever since Rushmore. How many years ago was that? That's what happens when you put yourself on a strict CD purchase diet, you never catch up.
This is solid guilty pleasure material, very nostalgic for me even though I had only heard two or three of the songs before. Evocative of after-school jobs washing dishes, of bars in the afternoon, trying to smoke. The only problem, though, is it's Rod Stewart. And the problem with Rod Stewart is...he's Rod Stewart. I remember a book I had as a kid, Celebrity Trivia, quoted Rod saying, "My favorite things in life are football, beer, and girls. Not necessarily in that order!" But Rod's harmless enough, just wants to have a good time. And don't worry, ladies, anything Rod's got to give is quaintly old fashioned, I'm sure. Remember when they used to call it VD? Ah, innocent days...

With the excellent selection at Everyday Music, choosing the "used" CD of the week is often a challenge and this week's was no exception. I was torn between a copy The Electrifying Eddie Harris, a safe bet if Swiss Movement is any indication, and this goofy looking thing. It was close, and I tried to talk myself into buying both, but good sense and the fact Lonnie takes time in the liner notes to thank "Lady Sagittarius--for her Earthly Guidance" pushed Expansions up to the register. I love his work with Pharaoh Sander, especially "Astral Traveling," but I had no idea otherwise. So? Well, it's really good. He recorded it in '74, right after leaving Miles' band, and it does seem to be of that time and place, though certainly a lot sunnier than anything the Dark Prince would've tolerated. All Music Guide calls it Soul Jazz, and that seems about right. Listening to this it's easy to believe Smith went on to have some "soft jazz" hits, but at this stage, with the congas and the rhythmic keyboards, he's still soulful enough to rock those shut-yer-mouth shades. This music would go well with sundown at some Sonoran health spa. Or maybe a Jamaican health spa. Warning: Some of the vocal tracks by Lonnie's brother sound like his brother is Antony. I mean, I like Antony just fine, but...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Synchronicity for La Ketch

Today I was listening to NPR as I put away some laundry, and I found myself pausing to scan the bookshelves, something I tend to do more of when I'm between books (even though I'm ninety-nine percent certain I'm gonna read JJS's copy of Midnight's Children next). There I saw The Poems of Stanley Kunitz 1928-1978, and I thought Ol' Stanley, trying to remember where I'd just heard that phrase. Oh yeah, it was in that poem I read last week in APR ("Proust" by John Koethe):

I read The Past Recaptured on the plane and on a bench in Harvard Yard
And on a Greyhound to New York to ship my things and vist John.
I told him I was nearly done. "This must be a tender moment,"
He replied. "Do you want to be alone?" I said I didn't,
So we went downstairs where I could meet "Old Stanley" Kunitz
(Old!--he's ninety-nine now; this was almost forty years ago)

Less than thirty seconds later the radio said, "And we remember poet Stanley Kunitz."

My jaw dropped. He died Sunday. He was 100.

I got to see him read once, in high school with my mom. I was shy so she got him to sign my book. She said, "I told him 'my son is a poet.' He wasn't very nice about it, a real snob."

He was a fine poet. RIP, Old Stanley.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Music, man

The other night Small Fish over at Scratch Padding had this idea that I should write about my cd purchases for the week. Well, why not? A regular feature...

I've been on a pretty strict music purchase plan for a few years now, ever since I went to see a movie with Willis and ran in quickly to check out some now long defunct U District disk shop. I came out thirty seconds later $75 poorer with a pile of forgetables, including a Bryan MacLean solo album and something by Pink Fairies that I listened to twice. Fiscal discipline, the realization that I had a lifetime's
supply of tunes anwyay, and the Buddhist understanding that my hunger was insatiable, I decided to buy just two cd's a week. That went on for a few years with
the occasional cheat, then I switched to one used/one new cd a week. Then, until a few weeks ago, for well over a year I did a good job sticking to one new one a week (unless I walked into Wall of Sound--those guys always talk me into danger without even trying). Now I'm back to one new and one used per week. That allows me to keep up on the new releases (yeah, "keep up", ha) and also expand the back-collection with random elements. So far so good. Of course last week I bought three cd's. Though they were all used, and one was a "scuff" for $2.50. So I'm alright. Right?

This was a total surprise. I think I thougt at first these guys were the Danielson Famille (subjects of an intriguing article in The Believer sometime last year), then I think I just liked the cover art. So it was a whim. All praises to whim! This album is great. I read that they get lumped in with Devendra and the freek folk scene but that's just one more argument against lumpin'. Sure, they have some folk elements and, sure they're weird . But the guy's voice is a lot less willfully strange than DB's and the electronic elements bring things somewhere much more dynamic than the labels imply. This band knows how to use the studio to epic effect--how many groups manage to sound like Incredible String Band and a bearable Radiohead all on the same track? There's also some Byrds in there, I'd say. I like it.

I'd been looking for some Hariprasad ever since re-reading my notebooks from India, finding the word "essential" scrawled next to his name. A mysterious Frenchman I met at the Woodstock Cafe in Puri (a beach shack "restaurant" run by Santos and Jungleman) named Jean-Paul, one of those lucky Europeans who makes a shady living and gets to live in India three months a year, recommended him. I figured he knew his music--he'd seen Love in London their first time around. I don't know jack about Indian music, but this guy is considered one of the greats, and it's proven a nice alternative to the same old sitar drone. A steal at $2.50!

You already know how you feel about this one. If you hate reggae, move on. I'm more of a dub and rocksteady fan myself, but a nice collection of American soul
covers by the second-tier geniuses of '70's Kingston is great for mix discs and loading up the Mp3 player. Good summer music. And fify tracks on three discs for $15? A steal.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Welcome Eloise Serafina White!

Congratulations Katie, Watie, and Simon!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Day labor

Looking for a job bites. Sitting in front of the computer gives me a headache
and is, so far, fruitless. But I've figured out a temporary compromise: since one of my main reasons for getting a new job is
to have a schedule that allows me to see my lovely wife for more than 15 waking minutes a day, I decided to switch to day shift. This option has been open for a few weeks but I was resistant. My bosses work on day shift, and I've become a big fan
of the swing shift. Plus, I had come to see the motivation of a schedule change as my escape hatch from mental health. Um, the mental health field. But Craig's List has been cold, and the jobs on the links for the city and the county T. sent are tantalizing but, as Tantalus knows, always just out of my sweaty reach (my degree, the hours, "internal candidates only"). Not that my hunt is over, though; I'm gonna keep lookin' and hopin'. But this will take the pressure off, and I'll get to spend some real life time with my loved ones. Dinner time, evening walks, readings at Elliot Bay Books, movies. Really looking forward to it. Now I just have to wait until someone else is hired to take my current shift. Know anybody who needs a nice swing shift job with people who want you to define the word "socks" to "the creatures?"