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Archive for the ‘Salvador Dali’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE GLENN MILLER ORCHESTRA-In The Nutcracker Mood (2012).

Glenn Miller disappeared just before Christmas on December 15, 1944. His Orchestra, in the too-short run under his personal leadership, had officially recorded only one Christmas song (“Jingle Bells”, October 20, 1941).

Year later, the orchestra has recorded three Christmas albums.

A list of desirable players was compiled. There were a few requisites — musicians had to be working currently; only alumni of the Glenn Miller Orchestra would be recruited; each individual had to have recognized and outstanding talent; each veteran had to be able to take a leave-of-absence from his current “gig”; and, of course, be available to come to New York City to record.  The average age of this band is about 50. The length of time each player performed with the Glenn Miller Orchestra ranges from as little as 6 months to well over 10 years. The cumulative experience of this band recreating the authentic Miller “sound” is well over 100 years!

The first recording, “In The Christmas Mood”, was released in 1991. It was so successful that a second recording, “In The Christmas Mood II,” was produced and later released in 1993.

Almost all of the musicians performing on all three of these recordings, are the same. The only differences are the pianist for the first recording, and trombonist, Larry O’Brien, the then leader of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, was unable to make the second recording due to being on tour. Larry is noticeably back on this recording as evidenced by his beautiful trombone solo on Toyland.

My parents loved Glenn Miller and I grew up listening to him.  So when I saw this, I knew I had to get it–combining Glenn and the Nutcracker!

“Miniature Overture” a fun overture that puts the swing in things.
“March” I don’t know if Brian Setzer put the swing into this song before they did, but it has Glenn all over it.
“Dance of the Fairy Dragee” doesn’t differ too much for the original at least until the middle when the jazzy drums kick in.  The end totally swings.
“Russian Dance”  fast and peppy and wonderful with a big band flourish at the end.
“Arabian Dance” I love that the more Arabian sound comes from a muted trumpet.
“Chinese Dance” There’s some extra big band solos thrown into this one–cheating a bit I think.
“Dance of the Mirlitons” Some nice swinging in this dance too of course.
“Waltz of the Flowers”  This song is usually pretty sedate, but they big up the band.   The main part is still a pretty waltz, though.

“Jolly Old St. Nicholas”  The band’s singers enter on this song.  I have to admit I never really liked the Miller songs with words.  But this sounds pretty accurate to me.
“Toyland” A slow romantic ballad that I don;t recognize from elsewhere.  I could see Lawrence Welk and his bubbles doing this song.
“Ode to Joy”  You don’t hear jazzy versions of this too often, but they have the Glenn Miller sound perfectly for this swinging Classic.

“A String of Carols; Here We Come a-Caroling, Up On the House Top, a Child Is Born in Bethlehem, Deck the Halls”  The swingers are back with this nice medley of carols.

“Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” I love that they threw in a few bars of In the Mood into this song.
“Old Fashioned Christmas Tree” and “March of the Toys” I’m not sure if they are from something or just goo old swinging fun.
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” returns the vocals to the end of the disc.  I fitting end for the Christmas holiday.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra:
Saxes: Ralph Olson Lead Clarinet, Alto Saxophone & Flute; Lee Lachman Clarinet, Alto Saxophone & Piccolo; Mark Vinci Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone; Frank Perowsky Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone; Richy Barz Bass Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone
Trumpets: Tom Snelson; Ken Brader; John Hoffman; Dale Thompson
Trombones: Larry O’Brien; Eric Culver; Randy Purcell; Dennis Good
Piano: Tony Monte
Bass: Lanny Fields
Guitar: Jay Patten
Drums: Danny D’Imperio
The Moonlight Serenaders: Annette Sanders, Arlene Martell, Al Dana, Paul Evans, Kevin DiSimone

[READ: April 25, 2017] The Art of Wordless Storytelling

This book is a companion to an exhibition of Wiesner’s art at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Wiesner has created some of the most beautiful children’s pictures books ever.  And most of them have no words at all.  His books include Free Fall (1988), Hurricane (1992), Tuesday (1991), June 29, 1999 (1992), Sector 7 (1999), The Three Pigs (2001), Flotsam (2006), Art & Max (2010), Mr Wuffles! (2013) and Fish Girl (2016).

This book taught me that all of his art is done in watercolor and done in such a way that he adds layer upon layer of color to create intense depth of color and shade–I’d always known his art was great but had no idea why.  But then I read that when most books are created they print all of the colors at the same time, effectively muting his work.  So all of the subtlety in his work is lost when it comes out in book form.  His original drawings and paintings sound breathtaking.

In addition to seventy some plates of paintings, this book contains a few essays and Q&A with Wiesner. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKHOLIDAYS RULE (2012).

This collection is fairly new (a second volume has just come out this year).  It was curated by Chris Funk from The Decemberists.  It’s a nice mix of contemporary bands and classic songs.  The disc is mostly fun–it gets a little bogged down in the middle–and upbeat.

FUN-“Sleigh Ride”
The first time I heard this  had no idea who it was (I didn’t look at the disc).  I actually thought it was a female pop singer.  After listening a few times I’m mixed but favorable on it.  I love the sound effects in the background.  It’s fun, even with the autotune.

THE SHINS-“Wonderful Christmastime”
This is one of my least favorite Christmas songs, but I like this version better than Pauls’s.  It doesn’t sound especially like The Shins to me though.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT AND SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
I love Rufus’ distinctive voice–he does louche so well.  Sharon is somewhat indistinct here but she is well-matched with him.

PAUL McCARTNEY-“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)”
This might be the only disc I have where someone covers a song by an artist on the disc.  His version of this is way too slow.  But I am intrigued that he says “some holly and some mistletoe” (Because he’s vegetarian).

BLACK PRAIRIE featuring SALLIE FORD-“(Everybody’s Waitin’ for) The Man with the Bag”
I typically don’t care for this song, but I love this bluegrassy version.  It’s stomping and fun (and Chris Funk plays on it).

THE CIVIL WARS-“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
The Civil Wars are downbeat folk artists but, man, their voices together are so lovely.  Their harmonies make this song essential despite the less than upbeat rhythms.

CALEXICO-“Green Grows the Holly”
This song sounds so wonderfully Calexico.  I love it and would even have assumed it was an original of theirs if I didn’t know better,

AGESANDAGES-“We Need A Little Christmas”
I’m torn about this song.  They modify the delivery and I think I like it.  It’s also pretty infrequently played so it gets extra points.  But it feels like a real downer when you can hear the lyrics so clearly.

HOLLY GOLIGHTLY-“That’s What I Want for Christmas”
I don’t know who this is. And I don’t really care for this song which is kind of slow and ponderous even if the message is a good one.

IRMA THOMAS WITH PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND-“May Ev’ry Day be Christmas”
This is big brassy version of the song which sounds like it could be quite old with Thomas’ husky voice.

HEARTLESS BASTARDS-“Blue Christmas”
I dislike this song to begin with, so making a countryish version certainly doesn’t help.

ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER-“Santa, Bring My Baby Back to Me”
So this song is interesting with its strange chord choices and themes.  And it would be great if it were like 2 minutes long.  It seems to end quite naturally at that time, but then some vibes come in and the song gets all slinky.  That would be fine except it just repeats the same line and vibes section for 3 minutes!  WTF Eleanor?

FRUIT BATS-“It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas”
It drives me nuts the way this guys says Creeesmas.  Why does he say it like that?  It’s crazy.  And I can’t get past it because he says it a bunch.

Y LA BAMBA-“Señor Santa”
This song is more or less “Mister Sandman” but sung with the lyrics of Mister Santa.  There’s a wheezy accordion and the great accented voice of the lead singer Luz Elena Mendoza.  I love this and more artists should invent songs like this for the holidays.

PUNCH BROTHERS-“O come, O come, Emmanuel”
The Punch Brothers are awesome and this version of this song terrific.  Chris Thile sings wonderfully as he gets that mandolin worked up.  I love that they turn it into an opportunity to stretch out some, too.

THE HEAD AND THE HEART-“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
A terrific duet with the unmistakable voice of Charity Rose Thielen.  This is a sprightly and fun song and they do a great job.  I love the way she sings “maybe I’m crazy” and the vamping at the end is fantastic.

ANDREW BIRD-“Auld Lang Syne”
Andrew plays some high-spirited violin and sings briskly.  There’s a kind of countryish feel to it, which is quite different for this song.

Overall this is a good collection to add.  Nothing offensive or off-putting and maybe just one or two duds.

[READ: December 21, 2017] “The First Day of Winter”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection. (more…)

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lacavaSOUNDTRACKFUCKED UP-David Comes to Life (2011).

Fdavidor a band named Fucked Up, they make music that is surprisingly catchy.  Of course, as befits their name, they also have a pretty aggressive punk sound with lots of drums and loud guitars.  But many of the guitar lines and choruses are surprisingly melodic.  And then comes singer Pink Eyes.  He screams in a gravelly, rough, cookie-monster type voice (although he is mixed lowish in the mix so he doesn’t often overpower the music).  Despite the fact that most of the words are indecipherable, he also have a good sense of melody.

So how does a band that plays distorted hardcore punk with a barely comprehensible singer decide to make a 78 minute concept album?  Beats me.  But guitarist 10,000 Marbles has written a pretty solid collection of songs.  Of course, it also beats me exactly what the concept is.  According to allmusic the plot is: In the fictional town of Byrdesdale Spa UK, David has a humdrum life working at a light bulb factory, and finds an escape by falling in love with a communist rebel rouser, only to find out later that she has died in a terrorist bombing and that he has a lot of emotional turmoil to face.

I’ve listened to the disc a dozen or so times and never got that plot.  I even followed along with the lyric sheet and never got that plot.  Part of the reason may be that Pink Eyes sings all of the parts in the same way, so it’s really hard to notice that there are different characters (like Veronica) in the story.  While it is fascinating to hear a really catchy choruses sung by someone who is kind of scary, it doesn’t do a lot for the story.  The other odd thing is when Mustard Gas provides female backing vocals–they are sweet and pretty–a drastic counterpoint to the noise that Pink Eyes makes.  But she only comes in on a few songs.  I wish she did more.

There are some really great songs on this disc.  Song two, “Queen of Hearts” has some incredibly catchy sections.  And the “dying on the inside” harmony in “The Other Shoe” compliments the grizzly “It can’t be comfortable when you know the whole thing is about to fall” very nicely.  The b vox are also great in “Turn the Season.”  I find myself singing the “Hello my name is David, your name is Veronica.  Let’s be together. Let’s fall in love” section over and over.  It’s surprisingly sweet when sung by such a voice.

Since this is a concept album (or rock opera I suppose), there’s things like the nearly two-minute instrumental intro to “Remember My Name” which doesn’t fit with the rest of the song but is really catchy.  There’s also a kind of introductory “theme” that crops up in the album.  Fucked Up confound you at ever turn with beautiful melodies that morph into noisy punk.

By the middle of the disc (where I gather David is a low point), there’s some really loud heavy songs.  Amid the pummeling noise, there’s some nice acoustic guitar in “A Slanted Tone” and some very cool rumbling drums and bass that propel “Serve Me Right.”  These songs help to break up the flow nicely.  “Life in Paper” which is near the half way point opens with the same staccato notes as the disc itself, and it proves to be a very catchy song in which David asks “Who can I trust?”

The second half of the disc continues with the more catchy style with “Ship of Fools.”  But as the story nears the end, it starts to feel very samey.  There’s a few breaks, but it’s a hard row to hoe.  There is redemption in the end, but you still feel exhausted.  Perhaps 78 minutes of Fucked Up is too much.  For some listeners even 5 minutes will be too much.  Despite the accolades (and they received a lot), you won’t be hearing this one the radio (and not because the DJs couldn’t say their name).

And yet amid all of the noise, there are some really shiny gems.  They have even released four music videos for the album!  The first one, “Queen of Hearts” is especially cool as the video is set in a classroom and the kids sing all the parts (after a nearly two-minute spoken intro of the song.  I admit to not having any idea what’s actually happening in the video, but it’s still cool.

[READ: January 26, 2013] An Extraordinary Theory of Objects

This is a strange little book.  It was another one that I saw while waiting online at the library.  I was attracted to the cover (I know, don’t judge… but honestly, you can tell a little bit about a book by the way it is marketed. And this was marketed at me.)  It’s a small book with a stark cover and interesting drawings on it.   And then there’s the unusual title.

The book was only 180 pages (plus notes and a bibliography) and it was chock full of pictures.  I mean, this thing can be polished off in an afternoon.

And here’s what it’s about.  Well, let me modify that.  Here’s what’s in the book.  Stephanie is a young girl when her family moves to France (for her father’s work).  She has always felt like an outsider and now feels even more so in France.  She is introverted and spends a lot of her time in books.  Then she moves back to America and reflects on her childhood.

Yeah, that’s about it.  For here’s the thing, Lacava isn’t famous and she hasn’t done anything that you might have heard of.  She’s just a person who went to France as a kid.  The introduction kind of gives you some reason as to why you should read the book.  Lacava was a sad and miserable child and she took refuge in objects–not as a collector so much as an admirer.  On her windowsill she has collected various geegaws that she treasured (and which she brought from America in her carry on, they were so precious).  And she has this interesting relationship with objects.  Although, as with many things in the book, that relationship is not really delved into very much.   (more…)

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[WATCHED: March 5, 2012] Midnight in Paris

I took a course on Woody Allen’s films in college and, as a result, I had seen everything he had done (and a lot of what had inspired him).  After college, I made a point of seeing everything he released.  Often on opening day.  (My double feature of Deconstructing Harry and Good Will Hunting on Christmas Day is still a highlight).

But after The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, which was okay, but just barely, I basically gave up on him.  I watched Match Point in three parts (no time at the time) and really enjoyed it, but I never really got back on track with Woody.  And then came Paris.

Despite its huge popularity, I knew nothing about this Woody Allen film.  I knew Owen Wilson was playing the Woody Allen character in this one and it was getting amazing reviews.  Now, it’s very true that critics don’t always get Woody Allen, but when they unanimously get his film it’s pretty safe that it’s a good one.

And boy was it ever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PUBLIC ENEMY-Fear of a Black Planet (1990).

NPR recently broadcast a PE show from the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival.  I didn’t know that PE was still touring, so that was a surprise to me.  The show was largely a celebration of Fear of a Black Planet, which meant that I had to go back and listen to the original.

Man, is this a solid album.  The lyrics pack a punch even twenty years later and what is perhaps more amazing is that the sound collages that Terminator X created, which were something of an oppressive sonic assault are now fairly mainstream-sounding (forward thinking or what?).

What I like about this (and most PE) albums, is that  they have little skits between songs, but unlike most rap skits they’re not one-not jokes that you listen to once and then skip every future time.  A wonderful skit (for lack of a better word) is “Incident at 66.6 FM” in which we hear an amazing amount of racist epithets thrown at PE apparently on the radio.  Or the rather disturbing “Meet the G That Killed Me.”  “Anti-Nigger Machine” is a great collage of samples like “Think” and James Brown and a dozen more songs.

“Can’t Do Nuttin for Ya, Man!” is a (sort of) comic song from Flav that is catchy as anything. While “Reggie Jax” is a confusingly titled song that has nothing to do with baseball, but everything to do with funk.

Of course, this disc has some of PE’s best songs as well.  From the awesome “911 is a Joke” to one of the best rap songs ever, “Welcome to the Terrordome” (my favorite story of this song is when I was wearing a  Welcome to the Terrordome shirt and my philosophy professor asked me quite pointedly, “What in the hell is a terrordome.”  That was a fun conversation).  “Terrordome” is still amazing–powerful, musically intense and for all of its lyrical acuity, it still has funny moments….boing.

And of course, “Burn Hollywood Burn” is an amazing critique of the movie industry (and it’s catchy too).  I got Black Caesar back at the crib, right Lar?

I’ve always been a little confused by “Pollywannacracker.”  Not lyrically, but vocally, as Chuck’s (is it really Chuck?) voice is treated in a surprisingly tinny way.  I liked the song more on this listen than any other, I guess in the past it just kind of snuck by me.

The album is a little front loaded with greatness.   “Power to the People” is another powerful song, but it’s not quite as memorable as the other tracks.  “Fear of a Black Planet” has some really cool sounds on it (where did they get that “black man, black woman, black baby” sample?).   “Revolutionary Generation” is a great track in which Chuck and Flav stand up for black women: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, my sister’s not my enemy.”  Not your average rap subject.

And the last couple of proper songs, “B Side Wins Again” and “War at 33 1/3” are fast paced and furious, but they don’t really have much in the way of a hook.  Nevertheless, lyrically they are really great, and I love to hear Chuck D flow that quickly.

The biggest surprise for me is the censored version of “Fight the Power” (the song that got me into PE in the first place, thanks Spike).  It’s really surprising to me that PE allowed their music to be bleeped–unless it was just for a deliberate radio play (which I can accept).  Although they also list a title as “Leave This Off You Fu*Kin Charts” (did I buy a Columbia House version or something?)

This is an amazing album, one that still sounds fresh and sadly, is still relevant.

[READ: October 15, 2011] Between Parentheses

I never expected to get so addicted to Roberto Bolaño.  And despite his death, there is no shortage of works coming out in English (that is one of the advantages to reading a translated author–even death doesn’t cease the available materials).  Indeed, this year alone, New Directions is publishing Between Parentheses, and Tres and FSG is publishing The Third Reich (a collection of non fiction, a collection of poetry and a novel respectively).

When I really get into an author, I fall for his or her works, not necessarily him or her as a person (heck, some author are downright jerks).  But there are some authors that I want to know about, personally.  Bolaño is a pretty polarizing figure–he seems obnoxious, his works don’t shy away from very specific opinions, and sometimes it’s unclear what kind of views Bolaño himself has in his works (or if he’s even telling the truth about his so-called truths).  One thing in particular is the constant use of the word “faggot.”  It is used often in 2666 (and I know that is a translator’s choice, but still) and used derogatorily.  Now, clearly the context is everything for something like that.  But it seems to speak badly of Bolaño.  And yet, when reading these essays he is not homophobic in the least.  He is obviously well aware of institutionalized homophobia in Latin America, and he is obviously not supportive of it.

But that’s just one interesting thing about this book.  So let me back up. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FRANK ZAPPA-Does Humor Belong in Music? (1995).

Frank Zappa made money and found fame by writing dirty, funny songs.  Yet he was really a great guitarist and a serious composer.  But hey, when you need the money to make your studio, you write songs about “Penguins in Bondage.”  When I was in high school my friend Al introduced me to Shiek Yerbouti, and I was hooked.  I’d never heard songs that were so intentionally funny.

So, this live collection is kind of an odd assortment, given the title.  I mean the first song is an instrumental (ie. not funny at all except for the title “Zoot Allures”).  “Tinseltown Rebellion” however is pretty darn funny.  The mockery that goes on (and the call-outs range from The Scorpions to Culture Club and The Tonight Show) is nasty and offensive, but never really wrong.  And this is when you find out how good a Zappa stage show was.  The band was tight, they could play all kinds of crazy things and, as in this song, they were always in sync even when improvising.

This disc is a collection of songs from a 1984 tour.  I rather like this incarnation of the Zappa band (Ike Willis is pretty amazing at any time).  And they play tracks from across Zappa’s output.  Although there’s times when the disc sounds really abrasive (some of the solos–like on “Bondage”–are really piercing and not very smooth, and the drums can be very electronic sounding).

Of course, that’s the kind of music that Zappa wrote (“What’s new in Baltimore” is very electronic sounding–beautiful but mechanical–which is why it’s so amazing to hear it live–even if it doesn’t sound human, exactly).

And just so you know it’s not only Zappa showing off (although he kind of is since he hired all the musicians) in “Let’s Move to Cleveland,” everyone gets a solo…keybaords, drums…everyone.  And the final track “Whipping Post” sees his son Dweezil taking the lead guitar solo (which feels really human and rocks the dickens off the place).

For many of Zappa’s later “live” records, he compiled songs from all over the place (a very common practice for live records).  On some of the collections he even mixed a tour from the 70s with one from the 80s.   Now the thing that I just recently realized (even though it’s spelled out in the liner notes) is that these songs are cribbed together from different songs (!) (on “Cleveland” the piano solo is from St. Petersburg, the drum solo is from Vancouver, and the guitar solo is from Amherst College…weird, eh?  And what about the backing music, where does that come from while the solos are spliced in?)).  So, they’re not really live, except they kind of are.  And, heck that’s kind of funny too.  If you care about things like that it kind of ruins the “authenticity” of the recording.   But if you don’t, they sound pretty darn good anyway.

So this is not his funniest stuff, but it’s still an interesting live collection.

[READ: November 12, 2010] More Things Like This

I don’t know where I learned about this book, but I recently found it used for about $4 and I was pretty psyched to both find it and to pay a pittance for it.

As the subtitle indicates, this book is a collection of drawings that have words on them and are funny (but which are not “cartoons” (although some kind of are)).  The impetus for the book was a show at apexart of exactly this sort of thing.  The book expands on the show and includes many artists who were not in the show (including several very famous artists).

The Foreword by Dave Eggers offer the rationale behind the show & the book: Image + Text (usually referring to the image) + Humor = Good enough for us.  And it also asks pertinent questions: Why is it that so many of these artists can’t spell?  And why is it that when they screw up a word, instead of starting over, they just cross the word out and write it again?  Why is it important to some of the artists that the drawings appear casual, even sloppy?

And more. (more…)

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worstMental Floss has been one of my favorite magazines for about four years now.  It only comes out every two months, but it is just chock full of all kinds of weird information.  Sarah and I fight over who will read it first.   And then later we say, Oh, I read somewhere about X, and the other will say, yes, I saw it in Mental Floss too.

A bunch of friends and I used to do the Mental Floss Quiz of the Day which is good random trivia fun.  And I think that’s how I learned about the magazine.

So the magazine is designed to be read in easily digestible nuggets.  None of the articles are overlong.  Even the cover article, which tends to run for several pages, is broken down into bite-sized sections.  And each and every article makes you go, Huh or WOW.

The magazine even starts out great.  On their copyright page they list their errata which they call Mental Flaws.  And their corrections are just as funny as the rest of the magazine.  I think they had one issue with no Flaws and they were very excited about it.

mistakesNext comes the ubiquitous letters.  This also contains the occasional feature of Readers and Their Famous Friends, which shows pictures of readers celebrities (pretty much the only celebrities they ever talk about).  This is followed by the letter from the editor.  Neely Harris (I have yet to determine if Neely is a boy or a girl and I’m not going to look it up either, somehow it’s more fun trying to imagine) is very funny and always sets a good tone for the magazine. (more…)

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