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Archive for the ‘Alan Cope’ Category

guibertSOUNDTRACK: JACKSON BROWNE-Tiny Desk Concert #394 (October 6, 2014).

jbI don’t really think much of Jackson Browne.  He’s always been a staple of classic rock radio, but I never especially sought him out. His voice is unique and recognizable although if pressed I can’t think of the names of any of his songs (but I’d know them immediately if I heard them).

Bob Boilen talked with Browne in his book and that’s where I learned that Browne dated Nico from The Velvet Underground fame and even wrote songs for her.  I also learned that he is quite the activist.  And that he plays a lot in California with various performers (the blurb says “he’s largely free of obligations”–that’s a nice phrasing).

He plays three songs here.  I assume they’re all new as I don’t recognize them.  And they all sound very much like Jackson Browne.  He voice is largely the same although it does crack and break a few times (could that be the setting or the time of day or does he just accept that he’s getting older?).

It’s also interesting that Browne plays the rhythm guitar for most of the songs–allowing Val McCallum to play the lead guitar and Greg Leisz to play “all manner of stringed things” (including the slide guitar solos).

The three songs are “Call It A Loan,” “The Barricades Of Heaven” and “Long Way Around.”  I’m surprised at just how long these three songs are (the whole set comes in around 20 minutes).

Before “Long Way Around” (which is quite political), he says that they’re “Lucky to play for such an informed group.”  Bob says they stopped the news–there’s no news being made–so that Browne could play.

Some of the lines in “Long Way Around” are: “It’s hard to say which did more ill, Citizen United or the gulf oil spill” and “It’s never been that hard to buy a gun, now they’ll sell a Glock 19 to just about anyone.”

The songs are nicely accentuated by the backing vocals of Jeff Young who also plays keyboards for them but which they couldn’t bring.

This is a delightful, mellow (and thoughtful) set of music (with a huge crowd watching).  And there’s a funny moment at the end where someone triggers a James Brown doll and Browne does a pretty good “hit me!”

[READ: March 2, 2016] How the World Was

I was intrigued to read this book by Emmanuel Guibert because I’ve really enjoyed his work lately.  But how was I to know that How the World Was is a prequel of sorts to Alan’s War?  It was also translated by Kathryn Pulver.

This book is a”loving, immersive portrait of Alan Cope.”  Cope was born in 1925 when California was still the frontier and life was simpler and harsher.  And Guibert felt that it was a gift for Cope “in the last moments of his life” (unlike in Alan’s War there’s no word on whether Cope saw this book).

So this book is indeed all about Cope’s childhood.  And while he did have some pretty interesting things happen to him, his childhood was in no way extraordinary.   This is just a simple portrait of growing up in Californians in the 1920 s and 1930s as seen from one man’s eyes. (more…)

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photoSOUNDTRACK: WILCO-Tiny Desk Concert #509 (February 23, 2016).

wilcoAs far as I can tell, Wilco is the first band to be invited back for a Tiny Desk Concert (there was a stated rule that no one would come back twice, with some people skirting that by coming with another band).  Laura Gibson was invited back since she was the very first attendee, but since Wilco’s newest album has been so successful, it seems somehow fitting that they get invited back.

And perhaps in honor of that, while their last performance was noisy and raucous, this one is decidedly more mellow—with all acoustic instruments.  But that doesn’t mean it’s quiet and calm either.

For the first song “The Joke Explained” from Star Wars, they used banjo, acoustic bass, hollow bodies electric guitar (w/ slide), the ever-present melodica and muted drums (w/shakers).  And it sounded great.

For the second song, the older “Misunderstood” everybody seemed to switch instruments.  Tweedy switched guitars, the acoustic bass became an acoustic guitar, the hollow body became a slide guitar.  Nels Cline’s slide guitar brings so much to the song by doing seemingly so little.  I love how this simple, sweet song has a wild middle section–a crazy breakdown with noisy cymbals and drums–drummer Glenn Kotche is fantastic–and everyone else playing some crazy high-pitched notes until it all settles back down again.

Tweedy has another guitar for the third song “I’m Always In Love” and the melodica is back.  There’s xylophone keeping the melody.  And as with all of these songs, Tweedy sounds great and the backing vocals add wonderful harmonies.  Cline plays a wonderful slide solo, too.

Before the final song and there’s another guitar change for Tweedy, and he says that after this song, “you guys need to get back to work solving this Trump problem. Figure it out! Its weird!”  They play “Shot in the Arm,” another great old song.

The band sounds excellent—a wonderfully full sound even without amplification. I am really excited to see them his summer.

There’s also a nifty video showing “Misunderstood” with two 360 degree cameras so you can see what goes on in the audience during a Tiny Desk Concert.  Check it out.

[READ: February 7, 2016] The Photographer

I loved Guibert’s book Alan’s War, in which he took the words of Alan Cope and put them to an amazing graphic novel.  Well, he is back again doing the same thing with the words of famed photograph Didier Lefèvre.

Didier Lefèvre died in 2008, but before he died he left a legacy of amazing photojournalism.  That includes this trip to Afghanistan which he took with the team from Doctors without Borders.

Alexis Siegel translated this book again, and he offers an excellent introduction which not only explains Lefèvre’s life, it also gives context for everything tat these men and women were up against in that war-torn region.

As mentioned Guibert draws out the story that Lefèvre told him.  But this book is different from Alan’s War in that it also uses the photos that Lefèvre took.  Guibert fills in the gaps where Lefèvre, didn’t or couldn’t, shoot.  And there was a lot he couldn’t shoot. (more…)

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alansSOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-Do Make Say Think [CST005] (1999).

cst005web This album was self-released in 1997, but then the guys at Constellation took it and released it in a beautiful package in 1999.  And Constellation did it right: CD gatefold jacket made from 100lb. textured uncoated cardstock with foil-embossed text and window cut.  Three different two-sided duotone insert cards can be interchanged to show through the front cover window cut. Snazzy!

So this album was recorded in two different locations and it feels a bit more like  compilation of their songs than an album proper.  This doesn’t detract from the music at all, it’s just not as cohesive as their later releases.

“1978” has a raw sound.  It builds slowly, with waves of sorta static getting slowly louder for the first minute. And then the drums kick in. They sound very “live” and crisp. There’s a jazzy pattern accompanied by an unusual bass line.  At 3 minutes a big guitar riff breaks up the droning feeling as it rocks out and then disappears just as quickly.  There’s some saxophone and trippy headphone panning going on, too. This sets in motion a more funky bass line that runs like a lead instrument through the proceedings. There’s some noise bashing around at 8 minutes and a even wah wahed guitar solo at 9.  These occasional disruptions give an interesting melodic sense to this otherwise droney (in a good way) 10-minute song.

“Le’espalace”  feels a little warmer.  It opens with some analog synth trippy sounds and a pretty guitar riff. This is a lovely song that meanders around. The song gets more dense with a synth taking over the guitar line and another synth playing a contrasting melody, too.

“If I Only…”  is 7 minutes long.  It also has a rawer feel.  It’s more staccato with keyboard notes propelling the song forward. There’s a trippy middle section with a nice drum breakdown. It stops at about 5 & a half minutes and resumes with a fuller sound as it rides to the end.  “Highway 420” continues with that more raw sound.  It opens with washes of synths like Tangerine Dream or something.  There’s also a slick guitar line that begins about 3 minutes in.  It’s all rather atmospheric.

Do Make Say Think have always had a bit of jazz at their roots.  That’s evident in “Dr. Hooch” which has jazzy cymbals and slow atmospheric guitars.  About half way through, a wild synth riff comes in and takes over the song for a minute or so before returning to the atmospheric sound.

“Disco & Haze” is a warmer song that slowly builds with a spacey keyboard section.  Around 3 minutes in (of 9) a wah-wah’d guitar takes over—seemingly unrelated.   At 5 and a half minutes the song crashes into a big noisy “chorus,” probably the loudest thing on the record. There’s a noisy skronking sax solo to accompany this as well and it ends with washes of keyboards.   It really sounds like nothing else on the record.

“Onions” is only 90 seconds long.   It’s a simple keyboard riff with echo and little variation.  It’s an odd inclusion but maybe serves as a palette cleanser before the nearly 20 minute final song.  “The Fare to Get There” is warm with spacey keyboard washes and occasional woodwinds–there’s even flute at the end.  It’s 20 minutes long so just sit back and let it unfold over you.  Around 5 minutes in, eerie and spooky drums begin.  Then there’s some reverbed guitar chords and echoed notes which keep the song going.  About three-quarters of the way through, they add a simple guitar riff that continues for several minutes. With a couple of minutes left the song introduces some flutes as it mellows it way to close.

This is a pretty impressive debut.  The band knows the sound they are going for and they definitely achieve it.  Later records are more consistent (and consistently better), but this (especially the opening track) is a great place to start with this band.

[READ: February 7, 2016] Alan’s War

One of the things that First Second hoped for in their ten-year anniversary was that people might read books that they wouldn’t normally.  And boy was this ever one.  The title didn’t sound very appealing to me–I don’t really like war stories all that much.  And frankly I didn’t even know what to expect from the story, really.  Certainly not what I got!

This is the story of a man named Alan Cope.  And the origin of the story is as fascinating as the story itself (almost).  Turns out that Emmanuel Guibert met Alan Cope in the street in France.  Guibert asked the older for directions in June of 1994. Cope was 69, Gilbert was 30. They struck up a conversation.  And soon after, Cope began telling of his experiences in World War II.  What happened to him during and after the war and why this American solider now living in France.

Guibert asked if he could draw the stories that Cope was telling him and Cope said yes.  So this is a story of World War II but it is unlike any story I have ever read.  There is very little in the way of “familiar” WWII stuff in it.  Cope wasn’t in any of the major battles, he never came under heavy fire.  Rather, Cope had a fairly easy war, but he had a ton of stories that were interesting, funny, sometime unbelievable. And the number of famous people he encountered is pretty surprising.

I enjoyed this story so much.  On a side note, My father was in WWII and he also had a fairly easy war, although he was in the Pacific, he was on a small island that saw no action..  I wouldn’t say he enjoyed the war, but he came out with good experience and good friends, which is what Cope did, too.  My fathers stories were far less amazing than Cope’s, but it goes to show that everyone has interesting stories and that no amount of film or history channel commemoration will ever cover everyone’s story. (more…)

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