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Archive for the ‘Gregory Maguire’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Ventura (2013).

Not content to have just one concert on a release, Ventura contains two complete concerts from July 30, 1997, and July 20, 1998, at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, California.

It’s an opportunity to compare the band at the same location one year later–these two shows exist in the vacuum between the release of Billy Breathes (1996) and The Story of the Ghost (1998), so there’s a few “new” songs in 1997, but it also doesn’t mean that they are playing the same sets–not by any means.  In fact, between the two shows they repeat only two songs: Water in the Sky (new) and Prince Caspian (from Billy)

1997 sees the band in good form.  After two solid openers with “NICO” and “Wolfman,” they play a wild “Chalk Dust” which has some crazy dissonant soloing in it.  “Water in the Sky” is a slow countryish version with piano and twangy guitar.  There’s a great “Stash” with appropriate audience clapping (I really want to see that live) and then a typically fun “Weigh.”  This is followed by lovely versions of “Piper” and “Cars Trucks Buses,” and the set ends with a slow funky version of “Character Zero.”

Set two opens with a groovy “Pinch You in the Eye” (9 minutes) and a great jamming version of “Free” (almost 12 minutes) with a funky solo.  “Free” is one of my favorite songs by them and I always think of it as “new” because it is rather poppy.  But it’s from way back in 1996 so it’s surely not new. After about four and a half minutes of trippy sounds and echoes. they start “David Bowie” (which includes The Simpsons riff and a Doh!).  The solo is long with a lengthy piano section and a mellow jazzy middle before it turns a little funky and then to a groovy jam to the end.  It runs for just over 21 minutes and the end of the song starts the chords for Talking Heads’ “Cities,” which the band segues into perfectly and then segues back into “Bowie” fop another 6 minutes.  There’s a scorching end of the song with a lot of noise before the end.  Those last scorching solos each have a break where the band sounds like they are collapsing before resuming perfectly.  It is a spectacular 32 minutes of music.  (Their live releases have me believing that they “Cities” a lot more than statistically they do).

They slow things down with a relatively mellow version of “Bouncing around the Room” (as mellow as that song can be anyhow) and then the bluegrass version of “Uncle Pen.”  The end of the second set comes with a mellow jam to start “Prince Caspian.”  Even the jam is mellow for about 9 minutes, but the set ends with a raucous version of Jimi Hendrix’ “Fire.”

The encore is a rollicking run through “My Soul” with a very fast “mymymymymymmysoul oh my soul.”  It’s a great show with lots of perfect peaks and valleys.

There’s a bonus track–a 9 minute soundcheck jam.  There’s some casual singing of some “dah dah dahs” and some high pitched “ooohs.”  A keyboard solo follows and it ends with a noisy section and a scream of delight.

In 1998, the band opened the show with a 21 minute “Bathtub Gin.”  It’s not that often that their opening song is a big ass jam.  (I’m sure someone has stats to back that up).   There’s a lot of piano riffage in the middle too.  After this, the band plays mostly short songs for a while: a mellow version of “Dirt.” Then a  fast and fun “Poor Heart” (in which Trey introduces Mike as the author–which he is).  Then a jazzy “Lawn Boy.”  There’s a romping “My Sweet One” which segues into a rocking “Birds of a Feather.”  By the time the get to “Theme from the Bottom,” which sounds great, they’re ready to stretch out.  It’s about 9 minutes long with a nice long solo.

They repeat “Water in the Sky” from last year.  It’s pretty although a minute shorter than 1997.  There’s a 4 minute jam before “The Moma Dance” starts proper (that will be on Ghost).  The set ends with a 14 minute “Split Open and Melt.”

Set 2 opens with a really long (14 minute) version of The Who’s “Drowned” and a dark moody jam although the reggae chords of “Makisupa Policeman” start long before “Drowned” ends.  And as the reggae jam starts, Trey sings “woke up this morning… SKUNKED” to much cheering.  The song ends with a trippy synth section that segues into “Maze.”  Page continues The Who theme with a solo version of “Sea and Sand.”  It’s interesting that in 1997 their second to last song was “Prince Caspian” (about 9 minutes). A year later their second to last song is also “Caspian,” this time 12 minutes with a rocking solo.  It segues into a stellar set-ending fifteen minute “Harry Hood.”

The encore is a crazy “Sexual Healing” sung by fish.  It’s goofy and it goes on way too long (nearly 8 minutes), but they follow it with a 12 minute jam of “Haley’s Comet.”  I love the harmonies.  The song ends with some rumbling noises as the guys leave the stage.

The bonus soundcheck is a reggae riff with them reciting the lyrics “I’m your Venus, I’m your fire.”  It’s a decent enough jam for a soundcheck although I’m most impressed with how Trey ends with a wrap-up riff instead of just stopping the song.

The bonus soundcheck songs aren’t that great to have–more like special feature on a DVD.  But the main sets are fantastic.  And you get 35 different songs between the two shows.

[READ: November 22, 2016] Tales Told in Oz

I read the 16 Madras Press Books some time ago and posted about half of them.  So here’s the other half coming up.  So what is Madras Press?

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors.

For this particular book, “The author of the bestselling Wicked Years series returns to Oz with a compendium of folktales.  Proceeds to benefit Friends of West Hartford Library.”

I’m probably the only person who would read this book not knowing who Gregory Maguire was.   Well, I’ll amend that.  I knew who he was and I loved Wicked when I read it.  But I forgot who he was (his name  did sound familiar, though).

As I said, I loved Wicked but didn’t read anything else in the series.  I was only vaguely aware that there was a series–evidently there are 4 books and this book is considered 0.5.

All of this is introduction is to set up why I didn’t really enjoy this book that much.  Not realizing that it was part of Maguire re-imagining Oz, I thought it was weird and arbitrary that it was “set” in Oz.  Why not just make up your own world to tell these stories about.

Now realizing what was at stake, I appreciate it more, but since I’m not invested in his series (or really in Oz itself–I’ve never read more than the first book of that series either), these were just amusing tales. (more…)

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clickSOUNDTRACK: BEACH HOUSE-Teen Dream (2010).

teendreamI didn’t know Beach House until this album got huge raves in end of the year lists.  I decided to investigate it and I was really pleasantly surprised by the album’s Cocteau Twins meets My Bloody valentine feel.  I have recently read that their first two albums were not quite as big and full and orchestral as this album, which meant that this one marked a recording (but not necessarily song stylistic) change for the band.  Part of me wants to hear what the earlier, more homemade version of the band sounds like, and yet I like the full almost orchestrated feel of this album so much that I can’t imagine going back to a less big sound.

The album opens with a delicately reverbed guitar riff—it feels warm and summery and then the angelic voices kick in and the ahhhs launch the song into the stratosphere.  And it pretty much stays there for the whole album.  There’s virtually no bass and only the slightest hints of drums (time-keeping measures rather than percussion).  Well, okay, “Better Times” has drums but even they are mild.  Victoria Legrand’s voice just soars, sometimes in staccato bursts, but mostly in otherworldly seeming falsetto (with occasion moments when she sounds kind of masculine and yet still angelic–it’s an amazing range).  There’s mostly reverbed guitars but on some tracks like “Used to Be” there are keyboards as well.  They’re even more prevalent (and more 80s sounding) on “Lover of Mine.”

Despite the sameness of the songs, the album doesn’t feel like one song repeated over.  The melodies are unique and the composition of the songs really shows a lot of diversity within a format.  Like “10 Mile Stereo” which has a faster pace than the other but still maintains that ethereal vibe.  Or “Real Love” which introduces a piano into the mix, and the song feels a little less ethereal, but only a little.  The album is also not too long.  It’s like a wonderful blast of summer.

The CD comes with a DVD with videos for each song, although I have not watched them yet.

[READ: February 11, 2013] Click

I discovered this story because it was listed in Roddy Doyle’s bibliography on Wikipedia.  I’m somewhat surprised that I’d never heard of it as I know so many of the authors that were involved (indeed, several of them are involved in the 39 Clues, another multiple author series).  This book is billed as a YA book and I guess it is as many of the sections are about teenagers, but some characters grow old and there’s some talk of the bombing of Hiroshima which may be a bit intense (there’s no pictures and no detailed descriptions, but still…).  It is a quick read though, so I guess it can qualify as YA.

The story is about a photographer named Gee (real name George Keane) and how he impacted so many lives.  In the first story/chapter (each chapter is like a short story that contributes to the overall picture and each one of these is written by someone different), written by Linda Sue Park, we learn that Gee has just died.  He left his granddaughter Maggie (who I came to think of as the “main” character, even though she doesn’t appear in every story) a box with seven compartments.  In each compartment was a shell with a clue, suggesting that she should take all of the shells back to where they came from–a subtle encouragement to travel the world.  But Maggie is utterly distressed by Gee’s death and she can’t get off the couch where she used to spend time with him.  Eventually her parents offer to take her to one of those locations–Japan–getting her life started at last. (more…)

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