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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 8 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 15, 2005).

This was the 8th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Guest Vocalist Night.  Ford Pier on keyboards.

This guest vocalist night is a bit smaller than previous ones.  There aren’t twenty-six singers.  There’s only fourteen in total and a bunch of them sing two songs.  The show also runs just over 2 hours with the band singing some of their own songs at the end.   It’s like a tight, efficient guest night rather than a sprawling one.

Ford calls it “karaoke night.”  Dave nixes that, “Lets not call it that.  You have to be far more hammered to do that.”  Ford: “This is more like Star Search.  Mike sets forth the terms: “henceforth, we will be effectively mute except in support roles.”

As usual, they open with an instrumental “Four Little Songs.”  It’s always really interesting to hear this multi-part song with just the music.

“Produce the first victim!”

Here’s Selina Martin singing “Soul Glue” which segues into a very pretty “California Dreamline” (also by Selina).

Next up are Nick and Graham from Belleville.  Dave asks, “How’s Belleville?”  “No snow there.”  “It’s the Winter Nationals Pro-Am” as they sing “Fat” and do a terrific job.

Jennifer Foster comes out to sing “The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos.”  Tim says, “Jen’s trying to play ‘stump the band.'”  Ford jokes, “Maybe you’ll wind up playing keyboard next year.”  Dave: “Coz we’re firing Ford’s ass.”  It is such a shame the mic gets staticky and cuts out because she does a good job with this hard song.  She notes, “its cutting in and out.”  Tim:”So were our brains.”

Then there’s a double shot of Don Kerr.  He says he’s going to do a double shot from his favorite album.  A terrific “Introducing Happiness” is followed by a change of selection.  He says he changed it just today.  They do “Fan Letter To Michael Philip.”  Don says it’s a real fan letter.  Dave: Don Kerr will personalize  a song to you for a small fee.”

Some of the lyrics:

I have all your records/
I have even helped you make a few
Among my favorite producers would be
Tchad Blake and you

I  would like a fan club letter/
but one of your Juno awards would suit me better

When i joined the Rheostastics / I was met by a lot of Dave Clark fanatics
I know they did the same thing to you / but just like me you made it through

During the end there are backing vocal chants of “Wojewoda.”  He must have been pretty overwhelmed.

Patrick Finch comes on to sing “Junction Foil Ball.”  Dave asks him, “And how’s that go exactly?”  Patrick: “It’s nice.”  And they do a great version.

I am amused to hear that someone is shouting requests.

Sarah Harmer comes out two songs.  A sweet “Loving Arms” (I love that Tim adds the spoken “Jeez, I don’t know” line, which is part of the song but it sounds amusing and sweet.  Mike: “That somehow just sounded right.”  It’s followed by a wonderful “Claire.”

Paul McLeod comes out and Ford says, “This guys isn’t as good-looking at the last one.”  Dave, “I don’t know, have you ever seen him in bicycle shorts?”  He does an excellent version of “Jesus Was Once A Teenager Too.”

Sean Cullen comes out for two songs.  “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” has a terrific voice for this rather silly song.  At the end, he scream/sings “he’s going off the rails.”   Then Cullen does a lengthy improvised Christmas Song.  It’s very funny and a twisted retelling of the Jesus story.  Some amusing lines:

Joseph was good with his hands and good with the ladies.
There was going to be a huge new tax. What an asshole Caesar was.
100s of men with their young pregnant wives clogging the roads.
They put him in a manger, which was weird, because cows were trying to eat.
The horse said to the turkey, you look ridiculous, look at you.  Sit down and shut up (the horse was a real asshole).
The turkey said I’m going to fight for Jesus.
The temple guard laughed because it was a turkey.  The guards fought and killed him, filled him with seasoned bread and threw him on the fire.
The angel came down and said you bastards.
The guards said, lets eat it and take a bit of him home with us.
We dream of that first Christmas where a turkey gave his life.  And the horse was an asshole.
It’s the Christmas turkey on Christmas day.  Thank you turkey for fighting for Jesus.
Dave: “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”
Mike: “What album was that off of?”

Robin Lowe comes out to sing “Sweet Rich Beautiful and Mine.”  Robin has been selling stuff for us this week.  Public congratulations, Robin got married to Steve Clarkson, our sound man, this week.  Robin sings a duet with Martin.  Dave: “Well, isn’t that sort of cheating, Robin?”  Robin hits some amazing high notes.  They sound great together.  This version gives me chills.

“Take Me In Your Hand” is sung by Howard Druckman and Beverly Kreller.  Howard is one of our oldest and dearest friends.  Dave: “I’ve been demoted to bass.”  They’re giving the rest of the band a break.”  The song ends with penny whistle and bongos.

Yawd Sylvester comes out to sing Tim’s song “Row.”  Tim Vesely, Yawd’s rhythm guitarist.  Yawd went on tour with Violet Archers and Tim promised it would  be Rheos-free.  But after the encore, Yawd would go out for a smoke and Tim would do “Row” as an encore.  It’s a bit too slow and the world is incredibly rude throughout the quietness.

Ida Nilsen comes out to sing Marginalized.  It’s a little too un-intense.   Tim Sings the Vic Chesnutt song “Little Caesar” at the end.”

Paul Linklater from Justice, Manitoba, the Scribbled Out Man, comes out to sing “Horses.”  He’s great for the song. At some point Paul starts chanting “Put away wet” for some reason.  Dave says guys, throw it into G for a second.  Dave starts playing a simple riff which Ford turns into “Hang on Sloopy.”  Which he sings: “I don’t know the words to hang on sloopy / that’s okay it’s not a Rheostatics song / so we shouldn’t do it / It’s all wrong.
“Back to B minor.  Now its a Tragically Hip song.”   Paul is really intense at the end.

Someone shouts, “Soul Glue.”  Dave replied, “we did it the first song!”

Justin Rutledge utterly rips through “Feed Yourself.”  It is just rocking and intense.

Ron Koop comes up and Dave says, “Mennonites are the most ticklish people.  Ron, you’re so ticklish.  I don’t mean to generalize, but generally…”

Oddly, someone keeps shouting “Hey, it’s Christmas, play The River, please.  C’mon Gordy, save us.  The River!”  Mike mutters: “shut up.”

Ron sings a lovely “Making Progress.”  And at the end she says, “How about the best band in Canada.”  Dave: “Are the Constantines here?”

They come back for an encore and say “we’ll do a couple where we sing just to mix things up and get ready for tomorrow.”

Dave also asks, “Shauna, can we get some new flowers.  Are replacement flowers in the budget?  They’re starting to bum me out.”  Martin: “Strangely just yours are dying, Dave.”

“PIN it up, Marty.”   In the middle Dave sings “I want some flowers.”  Tim notes: Thanks to Great Aunt Ida for opening tonight.  They were awesome.”

In the audience, that ass is still screaming for The River.  So Ford sings.

When I speak the words I repeat
Are lost within this roaring

I know the one by No Means No, it takes about 9 minutes to play, but it can be done.

They end the nearly two and a half hour show with “Stolen Car.”  Tim starts by playing “Jingle Bells” on the bass really quietly.  But then the song rocks out to the end.

A final note from Darrin, who posts all of these shows:

10 Years later I randomly met Robin Lowe on Sept 4th, sold Jennifer Foster my spare ticket for the Saturday night AGO show on Sept 5 2015, and Selina sang with the band on Sept 6 at the Monarch Tavern after AGO Party.

[READ: July 27, 2017] “Making Scents”

My nine-year-old daughter Tabby liked this book.  And I know that because as I was complaining about the massive problems I had with it, she said she liked it.  So, I guess its good for nine-year-olds.

But I like a lot of books that are good for nine-year-olds.  And I did not like this one.

The premise is a weird one to start: Mickey’s parents raise bloodhounds.  As such, they teach him to be a great sniffer as well.  Cute, right?

The story begins with Mickey writing his life story: “First I was born.”  Next half of the sentence… “then I was put in a tree.”

What?  So he is an abandoned baby and someone thought it would be smart to put him in a tree in the woods?

The next scene puzzled me even more. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 6 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 13, 2005).

This series contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about–except for their “final shows” and their “reunion shows (which I really hope to see some day).” This was the 6th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  It was a free Tuesday night.

Note:  After the encore break Ford Pier plays a solo version of Diaphanous Heart and then Dave fortuitously jokes that the band just decided to break up.

As the show opens, Dave says they’d like to that Kat and Leeroy for playing with them tonight.  He then says that this is their fifth night, “lucky number 5.” But it clearly isn’t.

They open the set with a stretched out version of “Fat.”  Mike asks, does that stand for “File Allocation Table?”  Dave: “Of course is does.”  “Aliens” has an unusually heavy riffing opening but then the song is played fairly straight.  During the quiet part, Dave doesn’t play anything else but there’s some pretty twinkling keys from Ford.  The song ends with an unexpected guitar solo.  And as the band starts to play the next song, there’s more soloing–a solo unlike what Martin typically does.  I assumed it was a guest but apparently not.  And yet, it lasts for just a moments before the song becomes “Claire.”  Martin’s got some interesting guitar sounds going on for the lengthy solo.

Martin tries the opening of “Torque Torque” but it sounds wrong–naw it didn’t work.  Dave: “Bit of a clunker.”  The next try is fine although there’s a really ugly moment in the middle of the song where the chord is just wrong.  But they get past it pretty quickly.

Dave announces that that was from the film Whale Music, the soundtrack to which is available on zunior.com, a site that is making our musical available digitally.  “We also just released a recording called Calling Out the Chords Vol. 1 which is a recording of last years’ Fall Nationals.  It’s a 12 song souvenir of that event.”
Ford: “I’m astounded that this is volume one.  What do you need someone to take out a fistful of money and burn it in front of you before you get a goddamn clue?”
Dave: “I thought vol, 1 because you know those albums like Cruisin Vol 1.  No one every goes, ‘Wheres Vol. 2?”
Ford: “I felt that way about Kill Bill.  There’s more? Ew.  A martial arts movie with no martial artists?”

When they start “It,” Martin jumps a ahead to the dinosaurs verse and then says  “Is it the wrong verse?”  Dave tells him to go back and they more or less start over.  This time when he gets to the dinosaurs, he roars.   Next up is “Queer” which rocks.  Before the end coda, Ford take a lengthy jazzy piano solo.  It’s followed by “Pornography” which feels a little rushed. There’s some ugly static on the guitar.

When the song is over Ford asks who watched the Grey Cup.  “Everybody did, naturally.  And you all saw The Black Eyed Peas and enjoyed them very much.  And you know that woman Fergie?  She was one the voice of Charlie Brown’s little sister Sally in the Peanuts cartoons [this is true].  And now, when you watch the special and she says ‘My Sweet Babboo’ you’ll hear her saying ‘My humps, my humps’ and that’s just wrong.”
Dave: “Yeah, but what a band.  And what a great cup.”

After a nice “Sunshine at Night” Dave introduces Ford: “all the way from Edmonton, via Vancouver, via Eastern Europe, that’s Ford Pier on the keyboards.”

Then Dave thanks everyone who donated to Alpha and Huron Schools (Tim’s daughter goes to Alpha and my son goes to Huron, and they’re both co-op and they need it.  You gotta love a new toilet, right?  Everybody remembers their first toilet.  You probably had some pretty crude toilets in Caprino, eh Martin?”
Martin: “oh yea!  Toilet technology is catching up, but in the 70s it was primitive.  In my aunt’s bar, there was a hole and two porcelain footprints.  And it reeked.”

Martin starts tuning and then does a really awful chord–“whoa, I tuned it cool.”  Mike: that’s some serious positive reinforcement…  Shit, I slept in.  Cool.”

Martin says the next song is about a rock musician with a special haircut, a pompadour.  It’s a great version of  “Sweet, Rich, Beautiful and Mine” and it’s followed by a particularly intense version of “The Land is Wild.”  Written by “Dave Augustino Bidini.”  Dave really screams during the “it didn’t have to be” part.  And he has now added the final verse about Fogarty’s death.

There’s a huge reaction when “Here Comes the Image” begins and it features Augustino on the rums and Wojewoda on the synths.

Out of the blue Dave asks, what was your favorite Triumph album, hammer or anvil?  Then Dave says that the band Anvil were from Etobicoke and were originally called Lips.

Dave says the next song is dedicated to Ford’s shirt (someone in the crowd shouts we love you Ford Pier).  It’s “P.I.N.” and this time it ends with them chanting “I love my humps, my lovely lady lumps.”

Dave says that “Mumbletypeg” is one of those jump up and down songs, just like the last one.  They end the set with “Satan Is The Whistler: which totally rocks.  Martin ends it with his robot voice and then go to an encore break.

After the break, Ford comes out to sing a solo song on guitar. It’s his song “Diaphonous Hairshirt” which I’d never heard before.  It’s catchy but also a little odd, with some interesting vocal lines. Then he goes back to the synth and plays some pretty intro music.  Dave says he wants to tell everyone the band wants to break up.  Mike: “And then we can get on with our lives.”  (They would officially break up in January).

Martin starts counting 1, 2, 3, and keeps going up to 18.  Dave says “if my kids heard you do that they’d think you were a god.  How did he remember so many numbers in order?”  They play “Fan Letter To Michael Jackson,” but instead of the “Michael” chant, Dave shouts Autobahn!  Then during the slow part, Dave sings “fun fun fun in the autobahn.”  He continues, “Always defer to the Germans.  Always defer to krautrock when you’re looking for a good rock n roll slogan.”  Martin starts singing “It feels good to be alive” with a German accent.

The end the night with Part 2 of “The Ballad of Wendel Clark” It segues perfectly into Stompin’ Tom’s “Bridge Came Tumbling Down.”  Before continuing Dave chastises, “Stop looking at your camera, sir” and then they end “Wendel” and say good night.

That’s nearly two hours of free music.

[READ: July 21, 2017] Science Comics: Flying Machines

I really enjoyed this book about Flying Machines. When I heard the title (without the subtitle) I assumed it was just going to be a book about various flying machines.  I didn’t realize it was going to be a story of the Wright Brothers (and their competition).

And even better is that the story is told by their sister Katharine Wright.  We get a brief bio of her in the beginning and then a longer (but still brief) sketch of her at the end.  Katharine was the youngest child in the family and when their mother died (when Katharine was 14) she took over the family work.  She was also her father’s secretary as well as Orville and Wilbur’s “public relations director”–she dealt with kings and queens for them.

The story begins with Katharine trying to teach flight to an unruly classroom of kids (including one who needs to go to the bathroom).  And then she flashes back.  I love the way Brooks does this flashback, with Katharine as a kind of blue and white ghost look where she observes the other panels in full color.  The inspiration for her brothers wanting to fly was their father’s bringing home a hélicoptère–a small wooden “bat” that spun and flew.  It was designed by Alphonse Pénaud, he never made one big enough for people to fly, but inspired many.

The Wrights were from Ohio but they drove to Kitty Hawk to test their planes because the place was flatter and windier.

The book shows all of the people who tried to master flight (and the names of their ships) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 5 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 12, 2005).

This series of shows contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about–except for their “final shows” and their “reunion shows.  This was the 5th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe. Ford Pier was on keyboards.

This show is just under 2 hours. The site notes: “The entire audio had a major sound issue part way through “The Land Is Wild” and into “Superdifficult.” I used a Mark Slogget Soundboard mixed track to bridge the glitch. Better than just cutting it out.”  I can’t even tell.

As the show opens, Martin says “Hi there.  Shhhh.”  And then plays a delicate “Digital Beach” which segues into a rather quiet “Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds.”  After which Martin says, ” I see what you mean by curveball night, Dave.”

Dave says that this is the Winter Nationals, the Traditional Monday Night Free for All.  If we play any of these songs too well, you can always request a refund.  This set will definitely feature excessive keyboard solos (it doesn’t really).

After an almost expectedly sloppy “Soul Glue,” Dave talks of playing a song from 1987, “Woodstuck” that they recorded on their first trip to Vancouver.  I wonder whatever became of that recording.  Ford talks about Ceez English (sp?) who produced that record and then became a porn mogul.

Introducing “P.I.N.” Martin says he has three chords, literally and the truth and a standup drummer and the Thundergod Tim Vesely.

Introducing “I Dig Music,” Dave says, “Were’ gonna fuck this up real good.”  M.P.W. forgets the words to his part and then seems to make up some comical ones “Seymour Slime.”  When it’s over Dave says,”Okay we know that now, let’s do it again.” Mike notes: “the long list of ‘Oh yeah, right.'”  Dave then says that Martin will be starring in the biopic of Seymour Stein.”  Martin is upset:  “What?  What are you saying about me in front of my friends?”  “It’s the leather vest.” Much chatter about vests in general.

They move on to the most rocking version of “Sunshine at Night” that I’ve heard.  There’s some really loud ripping guitars.

Dave says, “Here’s a hockey song.  I vowed I would never write another hockey song, having written two books and a bunch of songs already.  I’m a hacker.  A hacker in everything I do.”  The keyboards sound great on “The Land is Wild,”  they add nice effects and accents.

Ford mentions that every night so far he has peed in the same urinal.  So tonight he peed in the one with the picture of Garth Brooks. “Didn’t care for it.”  Martin jokes: “It’s the tight tight tight jeans.  Garth is th e puking stall.”  Dave: “I saw on the TV that he got married to Trisha Yearwood.”  Mike: “Trisha Urinal?”  Martin: “She Pro-tools country, right?  Autotune country.  Robocountry.”

They play a quick and pretty “Superdifficult,” ironically (or not) with Martin’s robotic voice

Dave talks about the upcoming shows and promises that guest vocalist night will be the best one yet.  And I’m not just blowing smoke out my ass or up your ass.  Martin: “Do you have to be so vulgar?”  Dave: ” It’s refreshing swearing at someone other than my children.”

They play a lovely “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”  I really love when they come out of the poem (you can really hear the poem on this recording).  Martin agrees that he loves that song.

They play a slow and rather shambolic version of “Record Body Count.”  At the end, Martin plays a groovy chord and Mike notes: “Sounds like he died in Reno.”  Martin agrees, although he says Rio.  “You can always count on that triangular A chord to make you sound jazzy.”

This leads to a really long “Desert Island Discs” with these picks:
Dave: Ramones-Rocket to Russia; Sly and the Fmaily Stone; Tom Waits-Heartattack and Vine.
Ford: Violet Archers-End of Part One; Martin Tielli-Operation Infinite Joy; (Mike: brown nosing) and the book on tape of Dave Bidini’s last book and Faceless Forces of Bigness DVD.  Hey, I know who is signing the paychecks.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ron Koop: Miles Davis-In a silent way; that new album by Pete Eccles-Party of One’  (Tim: remember you’re on a desert island by yourself for all of eternity. ) Can I change my choice?  (Mike: no food, try and get albums that have food in them)  Led Zeppelin 2.
Tim: Bob Marley-Survival; Ry Cooder-Paradise & Lunch; Vic Chesnutt–Is the Actor Happy?
Audience member: Rush-Moving Pictures; Rheostatics-Harmelodia; Elliott Smith-XO
Mike: Deep Purple-Machine Head; Gentle Giant live record from 1978; Steve Reich-Music for a Large Ensemble (Tim: definitely sounds like a party of one).
Martin: I don’t listen to music.  Dave: “You’re more of a ring tone guy, right?”  Mike: “What’s your favorite movie that you own.”  Dave: “Hold on that’s different music.”  They play a ripping fast song.  Martin: “Local Hero, anything by John Cassavetes.  I like movies, not music.  Movies got it all.  Music, pictures, sound, light and (ha ha) great acting.
Dave ends the song properly with the E minor chord and Martin says “I remember when you discovered how menacing the E minor chord is.”  Dave: “That’s right, if my kids won’t eat, E minor.”

What’s on the platter next?

The French song?  Tim doesn’t want to do the French song.  Dave’s not going to remember the words to some song, he’ll do it tomorrow?

After “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” Dave says, “That’s Roger Lord on the keyboard.  I mean Jon Lord.”  Then Selina Martin comes out to sing “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds.”  It’s followed by “Self Serve Gas Station” which ends with Martin playing a really rocking version of the song and then the band filling in while he solos.

They start “When Winter Comes” which turns into a with all kinds of things: a quick run through “Song Of Flight” (with some really heavy guitars) and then onto what sounds like Martin trying to play the “Four Little Songs” ending and then finally getting it where they jam it out.  And then Dave begins the lyrics to the second section of “When Winter Comes” (in the blue Canadian winter).  Dave ends there and says thanks, but Martin and Mike play a rocking ending to the show before they take an encore break.

Dave comes out to play “Song Ain’t Any Good” on solo acoustic.    3:37  Someone shouts out for “Holy Macinaw, Joe”  Dave says that song is called “Horses” which makes people cheer, but he says, “this song’s not gonna come within 100 feet of that song.”  At the end of the songs, Dave says, Tim we missed your bad drumming.  Your good bad drumming you know what I mean.

Dave says “We have many Americans who come up to see us during Fall Nationals.  This is Rich and Greg from For Wayne, IN.  This is their big 5.”  They ask for a picture of the band and then one of them all giving him the finger.”  Mike notes that Taylor from Planet of the Apes And M*A*S*H’s Frank Burns are both from Fort Wayne, IN,. Rich and Greg sing “Take Me in Your Hand.”  They’re okay, one of them is a little flat.

Dave then says, we’re going to do one and a half songs. And remember tomorrow is totally free.  We’re playing with Kat Burns and Leeroy Stagger (and we’re gonna suck).  Mike: Leroy Stagger? Really?  He’s Caroline Mark’s hairdresser.”  They play “Song of the Garden” and end the whole show with the ending of “When Winter Comes” (the warm Victoria ending).

It’s a solid show and almost 2 hours long.

[READ: July 12, 2017] Shattered Warrior

I haven’t read anything by Sharon Shinn, but I did recognize her name (and Ostertag’s as well).

The story is set in a village (presumably on Earth).  Collen Cavanaugh’s home world was conquered by the Derechets, an alien race who are large and smart and have super strong technology.  They are using this planet’s resources for fuel and weapons.  And they take no guff from anyone–stepping out of line gets you work detail that will likely kill you.

Coleen’s family was very rich (they have a large house called Avon), but that couldn’t save them from being killed in the war (this is really dark story).  So Colleen is by herself in a remote house.  However, she must travel to the city every day to work (she has very little left).

One of the Derechet is nice to Colleen but the main boss Corvo is really nasty.

This was a pretty enjoyable story, but I had a few complaints about it.  The first one I’ll start with right away. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TED LEO-Tiny Desk Concert #678 (December 4, 2017).

Up until now, I have more or less missed Ted Leo and all of his phases.  The blurb notes:

How you listen to Leo depends on when his work came into your life. If you’re a back-in-the-day type you might rep for Chisel, his ’90s punk outfit born on the Notre Dame campus and bred in Washington, D.C. If you’re just tuning in, you may have witnessed his understated comedy chops in arenas like The Best Show on WFMU and a highly enjoyable Twitter feed. At the center of this bell curve are those who found Leo at the dawn of the 2000s — when, at the helm of what’s most commonly called Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (shout-out to the typographical variants still mucking up iTunes libraries), he kicked off a run of five stellar albums in just under 10 years, each one urgently attuned to its political context and yet defiant in its ideas of what punk could sound like and whose stories it could aim to tell. Fans will tell you the songs about eating disorders and missing old ska bands felt just as vital to their moment as those that explicitly took on Sept. 11 and the Iraq War.

I know Ted Leo from when he played with Aimee Mann as The Both (they did a Tiny Desk show) and I am aware of Ted Leo + Pharmacists (the above mentioned typographical variant), but I somehow never really heard him/them.  I didn’t even know he was a Jersey guy.  (My friend Al is a big fan, I recently learned).

Recently, WXPN has been playing his new song “Can’t Go Back” which is wonderfully poppy and catchy and which I sing along to each morning.  Leaning more about him (and how funny he is in the Tiny Desk show) makes me want to see what I’ve been missing.

I obviously had no idea about his punk past, so I was pretty surprised to hear the feedback and heavy guitar of the first song here “Moon Out of Phase.”  Leo sings pretty hard on this song, too.  It’s fairly simple musically, but there’s a bunch going on lyrically that’s fun to pick out.

[After] the bone-rattling slow burn “Moon Out of Phase,” he smiled and explained the song was perhaps “a little heavy for noon — but, practically speaking, it helps me get the cobwebs out.”

“Can’t Go Back” couldn’t be more different. It’s catchy and not at all heavy.  It has backing vocals (provided by Leo himself) and just swings along.

 It’s a bit faster than on record, and as the blurb notes:

By the time he hit the first chorus of “Can’t Go Back,” a danceable bop about accepting that the life you have isn’t quite the one you planned for, any remaining cobwebs had been scattered to the wind.

Interestingly for being such a guitar based guy, there;s no solos on the songs (and yet they’re not short either, the first and third songs are about 4 minutes long).  Rather than a solo on “Can’t Get Back,” there’s a cool guitar chord progression.

He seems unsure of the quality of that song (not sure why–because he doesn’t hit those high notes perfectly?)  But then says he’ll finish off with a request.  “I’m a Ghost” is an old song that he doesn’t usually play solo, but figured he would because of the time of year (guess this was recorded around Halloween).

He tells an amusing story about someone asking about the first line: “I’m ghost and I wanted you to know its taking all of my strength to make this toast.”  The person asked if the toast was “a toast” or a ghost pressing the lever down on a toaster and “the hand of the frosty apparition is just going through the thing.”  He says it was originally “a toast” but now it is absolutely about the toaster, that’s the greatest metaphor for so many things.”

It’s really about “alienation from the political process.” It’s more rocking, like the first song, but with a catchy chorus like the second song.  This is a fun set and a good, long-overdue introduction to Ted Leo.

[READ: April 6, 2017] The Golden Vendetta

This is the third full-sized book in the Copernicus series.  It follows the mini-book about Becca.

I enjoyed this book more than the second one.  I enjoy the sections where they have some downtime and aren’t just running around.  And there was more downtime in this book.  I was also really intrigued by the way it began.

The families had been reunited and them separated.  So Darrell and Wade and the adults Kaplans were living in a hotel under an assumed name.  And Lily and Becca were also together under assumed names–but they were not allowed to contact the boys.  This went on for two months.

In that time Galina Krause had been inactive.  We learn that she had been in a coma, but the good guys never find that out, they’re just in the dark for months.

Until Galina wakes up and is on the move again.  And then everyone is on the move.

The families travel under assumed names but are still followed relentlessly by the bad guys. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID GREILSAMMER-Tiny Desk Concert #674 (November 24, 2017).

It has been quite a while since there has been a classical pianist on Tiny Desk.  I’m unfamiliar with the Israeli pianist David Greilsammer, but his playing is wonderful and his selections are quite fun and diverse.

For this Tiny Desk appearance, Greilsammer begins with his muse Domenico Scarlatti, the 18th-century Italian whose 500-some keyboard sonatas are compelling, colorful snapshots of his decades-long service to Spanish royalty. In the “Sonata in E, K. 380” you can hear a little street band processing along with trumpet fanfares.

Greilsammer describes the piece as sounding very contemporary.  Scarlatti lived 300 years ago and his music sounds ahead of its time.  He says it’s almost jazzy or pop-like harmonies.  He says it feels like he is playing a Beatles song.

Greilsammer follows by jumping ahead 175 years to the eccentric Frenchman Erik Satie, who not only owned seven identical gray velvet suits but, with a freewheeling spaciousness and humor in his music, is often thought of as the precursor to everything from minimalism to new age. His series of mysterious pieces called Gnossiennes strike a particularly sedate mood, capable of neutralizing any source of anxiety.

Greilsammer plays “Gnossienne No. 3” which he describes as full of pop and jazz and colors and harmonies.  He was writing these strange short pieces that at the time people in Paris didn’t understand.  Everybody loves Satie now but just over 100 years ago he was completely misunderstood.

I absolutely love the way the final notes ring out in this room–they are quite haunting

Lastly, Greilsammer takes a left turn to Leoš Janáček, the idiosyncratic Czech composer from the early 20th century, acclaimed for his operas. He set one of them on the moon; another, the dramatically taut and emotionally wrenching Jenůfa, is perhaps the most undervalued opera of a generation. But Janáček also wrote in smaller forms. His piano cycle On An Overgrown Path plays out like a diary of musings, nervous tics, simple pleasures and mysteries. Within the claustrophobic tension that pervades “The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away,” you can hear the rustling of wings and the repeated four-note bird call.

Greilsammer says that Janáček lived in the Romantic period and all of his music is enigmatic, with many secretive things.  He wrote things related to dreams and wild scenes with things obsessively haunting him.  In “The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away” (from On An Overgrown Path) the theme of the owl comes back many times.  Every time you try to get away from it, it comes back.

For Greilsammer, who recently performed in a working crypt in Harlem, threading these disparate musical fabrics together comes as naturally as, well, playing behind a desk in an office building.

These are some really beautiful and nicely unexpected pieces.

[READ: May 31, 2017] Audubon

I have really enjoyed most of the French graphic novels that come across my desk.  This book, translated by Etienne Gilfillan, is no exception.

It is a biographical sketch of John James Audubon (born Jean-Jacques Audubon in Haiti in 1785).  His story, aside from the whole birding aspect, is quite fascinating in itself. He was an illegitimate child (his father has seduced a servant) who was eventuality adopted by his father (!) and called Forgèére (which means fern).  His father wanted him to escape military conscription, so the boy was sent to Mill Grove in he United States in 1803.  He became a US citizen and there met his wife Lucy Bakewell.

The book actually begins in 1820 with Audubon and two other men sailing on the Mississippi river.  They hit bad weather but all he cares about are his drawings.

Then we jump back to 1812 in Kentucky.  Audubon climbs into a tree to study the swallows who are living in it–some 9,000. He took home more than 100 birds to study them.  And then he tagged some others to study their migratory patterns.

As the end of the book points out, Audubon was one of the world’s greatest naturalists who did a lot for birding. Except he was also responsible for the death of thousands of birds.  There’s a section where he kills two ivory billed woodpeckers.  He is so excited at his luck because they are becoming a rarity. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINEGROVE-“Intrepid” (2017).

Pinegrove frontman Evan Stephens Hall just announced that, because of indiscretions, he was cancelling the band’s winter tour.  I had tickets to two of these shows, so that’s certainly a bummer.

I can only hope that whatever the details of his trouble, he can work it out amiably, get the help he needs and get back on the road in a better place.

Before this all happened, the band released their first new single since Cardinal took off.  “Intrepid” opens with a quietly strummed guitar and Hall singing quietly, including an unexpected falsetto note.  The song threatens to get big and loud but then seems like it might just end.

But after a minute and a half the rocking guitars and backing vocals come in and the song lifts off.  It strikes me as far less catchy than anything they’ve done so far, but it feels a lot more complex, as well.

The end of the song drops in volume, with one more little rocking guitar part before it fades out quietly with the same part that sounded like the end earlier.

It’s really well crafted.

[READ: May 7, 2017] Dark Shadows

This fourth book is once again Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin.  It also has an introduction by J.J. the search and rescue dog whose current civilian job is to look after the Chicken Squad.  I would love to see what the humans think of these chickens acting this way, I think that would be a very funny insight.  But maybe it’s best if it’s left unknown.

The family, including J.J. and the chickens are in the car going to a farm to “See things you’ve never seen before.”  Sugar says she has seen everything there is to see.  J.J. counters that she has never been out of the backyard.

Their mom, Moosh, explains that this will be a family reunion–they’ll meet all of their aunts, uncle and cousins.  And when they arrives there are hundreds and everyone expects them to lean all of their cousins’ names. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LEDISI-Tiny Desk Concert #673 (November 21, 2017).

Even though I don;t follow R&B, I’m always surprised to discover an artist whom I’ve never heard of.  Especially when she is described as “a veteran R&B queen…with nine Grammy nominations and an impressive discography.”

So, yes, I’ve never heard of Ledisi, but she earns her accolades. Her voice is powerful and her attitude is wonderful.   She opens with “Let Love Rule” where she hits some really impressive notes.  It’s interesting to hear R&B done on a simple box drum (James Agnew) and an acoustic guitar (Kerry Marshall).  But Ledisi is clearly an R&B singer and the way she and her (amazing) backing vocalist Sara Williams really get cooking their vocals are really impressive.

She introduces the next song: “This next song is from my last album.  I figured we do some up tempos to keep you awake.”    She’s so funny.  When she says the title, “I Blame You” and people react, she gets excited and says you know it.  “Everybody like (dances).”  In the middle of the introduction, her make up artist comes out.

In person, what’s just as impressive as her exquisite artistry is her radiant spirit of contentment and grace. You can see it when Terrell, her makeup artist, goes behind the desk between songs to powder her face. (It was an exceptionally hot day.) Ledisi responded to the interruptions not like a diva, but with humor, humility and gratitude (“Oh, you again”).

“I Blame You” sounds like a 70s song (and she has a major Whitney Houston thing going on).  Although  as the blurb notes, she’s not just about the high notes:

Classically trained, Ledisi is also celebrated as a jazz artist, which she clearly demonstrated when she broke out into a effortless scat outro on her second song, “I Blame You.”

She switches into the “New Orleans” style of scatting, which is pretty enjoyable.

I loved her introduction to the third song, “Add To Me,” which is about having self-confidence and ensuring self-care in any relationship.  She says women want to know, but all people should ask anyone new who comes into your life: I know what I can add to you but what can you add to me?  She was feeling sassy that day as she sang lyrics like

Clothes, rings, all of that means nothing to me I need more than what you’re offering me.  ….

I can be good on my own, but I don’t want to be alone.  But you gotta have it all together ….

Tell me all your dreams and your goals / I’m paying all my bills on my own
I made a lot of money last year / I plan to make more this year.

And then comes the final song, “High,” a tribute to Prince with even more positive messaging. She says that “High” is about being high on life.  That no matter what the circumstance around you, find one good thing in a day… be high off of that one good thing.

Ledisi’s an impressive musician.

[READ: May 5, 2017] Into the Wild

I didn’t love the second book in this series, but this one was really funny.

Interestingly, this book has a different illustrator.  While Kevin Cornell continues to do the covers, the interiors are now illustrated by Stephen Gilpin.  The pictures aren’t noticeably different.  (I didn’t realize it was a different illustrator), but on closer inspection I can see slight changes (mostly in style rather than quality).

What I found more fun about this one that the previous one was that the mystery was a more interesting.  The chickens’ back yard has been invaded by a box.  The human Barbara has put a rather large and worrisome box in their yard.  Sugar immediately suggests that whatever is in the box must be dangerous–what else would she keep in the box but something that is wild and dangerous?  (Even though they live in a box).

And then Sugar lays out the facts: (more…)

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