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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Railway Club Vancouver (November 1988).

This is a “very good sounding show considering it is from 1988. This has a mix of unreleased songs, Greatest Hits songs, Melville songs and even a couple that would end up on Whale Music.”

Like the 1987 show here, this is also their last night in Vancouver. It’s hard to believe that previous show was the same band, as just a few months later (Nov-Mar), the sets are radically different.

It opens with the end of “Lyin’s Wrong,” and then moves into a fun version of Stompin’ Tom’s “Bridge Came Tumbling Down,” and then one of my favorite unreleased songs: “Woodstuck.”

The opening is to the tune of Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done”

I called on Crosby and I called on Nash / I asked them if they want to buy some hash / Oh the deal is done / Hanging out with Stephen Stills, I asked him if he wants to buy some pills / Oh the deal is done.

And then the main body is a rocking bluesy number with the chorus: “You can’t go back to Woodstock baby, you were just two years old.   You weren’t even born” and a big chant of “BAD KARMA!”

Things slow down with a version of “Triangles on the Walls.”

During the banter, Dave Clark talks about going up Grouse Mountain in his jeans and he says he was automatically a “Wofuh”–as soon as you get into the skis you’re going to start saying “Woah… fuck.”

A great sounding “Dope Fiends” is followed by “Green Sprouts” which is “the silliest song of all… about the worms of New Jersey.”  “What’s Going On” has an accordion!  And “Italian Song” has them singing in over the top Italian with an almost ska beat and melody.

There’s a goofy, slap funk cover of “Take the Money and Run.”  It’s fast and rocking, but they leave out the signature five claps after some verses.  Nevertheless there are some great harmonies at the end.

They play an unreleased song “Sue’s Mining Town” which is a bit of a rocker, and then one from Greatest Hits (released the previous year) called “Churches and Schools.”  The set ends with a slow and pretty “Higher and Higher.”

This is the only place you can hear “Italian Song” and “Sue’s Mining Town” and one of the few places you can hear “Woodstuck” (except for this video)

[READ:August 28, 2016] Tennis Lessons

I’ve enjoyed some stories by Dyer but I was actually reading this because he reviews the new David Foster Wallace collection String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis.

But it turns out that this is not so much a book review as a delightfully funny discussion of Dyer’s own tennis playing and how he also wanted to write a book about tennis–but never did.

Dyer proves to be a funny protagonist. In 2008, (age 50) he was about to sell his novel to a new publisher and he imagined writing a book about taking up tennis at age 50. Dyer is British and the popularity and success of Andy Murray was making tennis very popular in Britain again.  It seems like a great idea.

And then Dyer is honest with us:

as a perennial bottom feeder for whom writing has always doubled as a way of getting free shit, I as also hoping that a top-notch coach might be willing to give e free lessons in return for the massive exposure guaranteed by inclusion in the book.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Cabana Room, Spadina Hotel, Toronto, ON (December 23 1983).

This is “Rheostatics and Trans Canada Soul Patrol 1983 at The Cabana Room – Spadina Hotel Christmas Party show. Amazing sounding recording considering it is from 1983.”

As far as I can see it is the only recording of the band with the Trans-Canada Soul Patrol.  And that basically means that it’s a lot of these early songs only with saxophone–lots of saxophone (it seems like only one member sof The TCSP is there).  According to a cassette recorded in 1984, the band was:

  • Drums – Dave Clark
  • Guitar – Dave Bidini
  • Tenor Saxophone – Charlie Huntley, Dave Rodenburg
  • Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Ray Podhornik
  • Voice, Bass – Tim Vesely

So it seems likely that it was a similar e lineup in Dec 1983.  I only hear guitar bass and drums, but I can only hear one sax.  And does that mean that Tim was the main singer back then?

This show is loose, dare I say sloppy.  There’s a total drunken party vibe going on, as befits a Christmas Party.  But the most notable thing is that sax–soloing all over the place.  Dave Clark gets a lot of shout outs during the set–trying to get him to do a solo or “lay the groove.”  Before “Thank You” (the Sly and the Family Stone song), Dave tunes his guitar with harmonics and someone “sings” Rush’s “Xanadu” briefly.  The band puts a massive echo on the first chorus–it’s pretty obnoxious.  And in the middle of the song Dace Clark starts chanting songs: “Fly Robin Fly,” “You Should Be Dancin'” and “Convoy.”

During “Chemical World” someone asks “What do you think Ronald, am I better off dead?” and then there’s a shout out: “show us your teeth, Paul.”  (None of these guys are in the band, right?).  Someone jokes that Clark is still playing drums even though his mom said that playing drums is not a career.

It’s unclear what’s happening or how serious the band is but they tell people “watch out, guys, you broke a fuckin’ beer bottle, okay.”  They introduce “The Midnight Hour” by saying it’s a song written by Wilson Pickett called, “Go Fuckin’ Nuts, no I don’t know what it’s called.”

This is the only recording I know of with “Big in Business,” which they describe as “something marketable.”  And after two shows where “Man of Action” gets cut off, we finally get to hear it to the end.

By the time they do “Louie Louie” the whole thing is a drunken mess.  There’s shouts of Merry Christmas, comments about it being the last  time they’ll play in 1983, calling people up on stage.  It sounds like Clark is looking for his girlfriend.  “Louie” is a massive party jam with all kinds of people singing along, including a woman with a very high singing voice, and someone going “shock” like Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey” after each “Louie Louie” line.

The set seems to be over but then some one encourages them to sing “Shake Yer Body Thang,” which they do with lots of screaming and shouting and letting it all hang out.

It’s nice seeing a relatively young band acting so cool and comfortable and fun on stage, even if I’m really glad they got rid of the horns (and their whole sound).

[READ: August 28, 2016] In Short

Manguso’s book review of four books of aphorisms is fun because she (an aphoristic writer herself) breaks it down into 36 paragraph-sized chunks.  Including that “Hippocrates coined the word aphorism to describe his brief medical teachings.”

A few interesting things: She says that she doesn’t so much read prose as “root through it for sentences in need of rescue.”

John Gross, in his introduction to the Oxford Book of Aphorisms, says the word aphorism took on a moral sand philosophical tone after the Renaissance.  By the 17th century the definition included witticisms.

James Geary wrote The World in a Phrase: A History of Aphorisms and offered a five part definition of aphorisms: it must be brief, it must be personal, it must be philosophical and it must have twist.  But the best thing that Geary has said is: (more…)

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harpaugSOUNDTRACK: LAND OF KUSH-The Big Mango [CST097] (2013).

mangoOsama Shalibi is how Sam Shaibi is credited on this album.  He is the composer and creator of The Big Mango, although he does not appear on it.

Some background that may or may not be useful.  This comes from Popmatters:

“Big Mango” is the nickname for Cairo and The Big Mango is a love letter from composer Osama (Sam) Shalabi to his new home, Cairo, and all of its tumults and contradictions…. Reveling in free-jazz noise, rock rhythms, and the radical propulsion that Shalabi encountered on trips to Dakar, Senegal, the album weaves the divine spirit unleashed through fury and joy and dance into an utterly fascinating whole…  This pinging between controlled pandemonium and something beautiful, strident, transcendent, is not accidental. Shalabi is tackling the nature of change and the place of women in Arab culture on Big Mango, and by so clearly blurring the strange and the celebratory, he suggests that even sweeping, radical change need not be a revolution, but perhaps a way of life, movement as vital force in the universe.

With an introduction like that it’s hard not to want to love this record.  But a with everything Shalibi does, he is always trying to push boundaries and attitudes.  And so, this album has some songs that are really fun ad/or pretty and some songs that feel like (but apparently are not) wild improvisations that test the limit of your patience for experimentation.

As I mentioned, Shalibi doesn’t play on this –I would have loved to hear his oud, but instead we hear all kinds of interesting Western and Eastern instruments: setar (is a Persian version of the sitar), flutes, saxophones, piano, balafon (a wooden xylophone), hand drums: riqq (a type of tambourine), darbuka (goblet drum), and tablas (like bongos) and of course, guitars and bass.

“Faint Praise” opens the disc with 3 and a half minutes of Middle Eastern music quietly played with a rather free form vocal over the top.  The vocals are a series of wails and cries (and almost animalistic yips).  It sounds like an orchestra warming up, and indeed, the Constellation blurb says:

These opening six minutes are an inimitable destabilizing strategy of Shalabi’s – his lysergic take on an orchestra ‘warming up’ – that serves to introduce most of the instrumental voices and the montage of genres that will form the rest of the work

It comes abruptly to a halt with “Second Skin,”  a much more formal piano piece—structured notes that end after a few minutes only to be joined by a saxophone solo that turns noisy and skronking and nearly earsplitting.

After some dramatic keyboard sounds, “The Pit (Part 1)” becomes the first song with vocals (and the first song that is really catchy).  It begins with a jolly sax line which is accompanied by another sax and a flute before the whole band kicks in with a refreshingly catchy melody.  For all that Shalibi likes exploration, he has a real gift for melody as well.  The lovely lead vocals on this track are by Ariel Engle.  It’s very catchy, with a somewhat middle eastern setar riff and those voices.  When the song stops and it’s just voices, it’s really beautiful.  The song is 7 minutes long and I love the way the last 30 seconds shift gears entirely to a more dramatic, slower section.  This section is so great, I wish it lasted longer.

“The Pit (Part 2)” is only two minutes long.  It’s a quiet coda of piano and flute.  After about a minute, a low saxophone melody kicks in, it is slowly joined by other instruments and Engle’s voice.  Unfortunately I can’t really tell what she’s singing, but it sounds very nice.

“Sharm El Bango” is a jazzy song with hand drums and all kinds of space age samples spinning around the song.  I really like when the flute melody takes over and the song become quite trippy.

“Mobil Ni” is the second song with vocals.  It begins with some strings instruments and hand drums over a slow bass line.  Then Katie  Moore;s voice come s in with a gentle lovely vibrato.  Her voice is a little smoother than Engle’s.  The song ends with a mellow section.  And then there’s a trumpet blast that signals the beginning of “St. Stefano.”  The trumpet gives way to brief explorations off free-jazz type before turning giving way to a bowed section with resonating bass notes.

“Drift Beguine” returns to catchy territory with a full Middle Eastern musical phrase and Elizabeth Anka Vajagic’s lovely voice raging from high to scratchy and breathy.  Around 4 minutes when the pace picks up, it’s really quite fun.

The final track is the only one that really rocks.  “The Big Mango” has a big catchy guitar riff and hand drums filled in by Molly Sweeney’s rock vocals.  The song ends the disc as a kind of fun celebration.

As with most of Shalibi’s releases, it’s not for everyone.  But there’s a lot of great stuff hear, if you’re willing to experiment.

[READ: August 25, 2016] “Don the Realtor”

I hate to contribute anymore attention to Trump.  But it’s hard to pass up a chance to read Martin Amis, especially when he eviscerate his targets so eloquently.  Hopefully Trump’s voice will soon disappear from the airways and we can go back to forgetting about him.

Ostensibly this is a review of “two books by Donald Trump,” The Art of the Deal (1987) and Crippled America (2015).

Amis begins, as he usually does, by getting to the point: “Not many facets of the Trump apparition have so far gone unexamined, but I can think of a significant loose end.  I mean his sanity: What is the prognosis for his mental healthy given the challenges that lie ahead?”

Some basic questions come up about Trump: “Is his lying merely compulsive, or is he an outright mythomaniac, constitutionally unable to distinguish non-truth from truth.  Amis adds that “Politifact has ascertained that Donald’s mendacity rate is just over 90 percent, so the man who is forever saying he ‘tells it lie it is’ turns out to be nearly always telling it like it isn’t.”

But the Trump lying machine has grown from the rubble of the G.O.P. which “has more or less adopted the quasi slogan ‘there is no downside to lying.'” (more…)

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feb20156SOUNDTRACK: ANTHONY HAMILTON-Tiny Desk Concert #516 (March 28, 2016).

anthamI don’t know Anthony Hamilton, probably because he is a soul singer and I don’t listen to soul music.  He’s won Grammy’s and everything!  He and this band The Hamiltones (nice) had just played for the Obamas, and they came to the NPR offices afterward.

The first song, “Amen,” is new and he says was his attempt to write an R. Kelly song.  The other three songs are apparently the ones that have made him famous.  The songs are “Best of Me,” “Cool” and “Charlene.”

I love his American Flag jacket/sweater or whatever it is.  And his voice and the voices of The Hamiltones are pretty sweet.  No doubt if I listened to soul music, I’d have a lot of Hamilton’s discs.

[READ: January 26, 2016] “Family Business”

This essay was an interesting mash-up of two writers that I’d like to read more of.  I am a fan of Nabokov’s although I have read but a smattering of his work.  And I have enjoyed what I’ve read by Lipsky, although I have yet to delve into his fiction.

This is a book review of the recent publication of Vladimir Nabokov’s letters to his wife Vera throughout the length of their mostly happy fifty-two year marriage.  Sadly, Vera’s letters were destroyed (by her), although as it turns out, she didn’t write very much back to him anyway.

This is the kind of book review that I find exceedingly enjoyable. It sums up what the book has to say and then lets me know that while I might enjoy reading it, I don’t actually have to.  Not that he gives away spoilers–are their spoilers if you know what their life is like already?  But he really gets the gist of the letters and their life. And frankly, I don’t need to be that intimate with the writer, even if I do enjoy his works. (more…)

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borgesSOUNDTRACK: SEU JORGE-Tiny Desk Concert #79 (September 13, 2010).

seuSeu Jorge was the melancholy singer in Wes Anderson’s movie The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. He sang the David Bowie songs and was amazingly soulful and brought a completely unexpected quality to the Bowie songs.

He plays these five songs with his band Almaz.  For reasons unclear to me only one of the songs is on the video, but the other four are available in audio format.

He sings three songs in Portuguese, and his voice is husky and passionate, so even if you don’t know what he’s singing about, you can feel the emotion.

The first song in English “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” has a cool trippy 70s vibe, with some cool keyboards.  Although I don’t love his version of “Rock with You” which I imagine was super fun to sing, but it’s so different from the Michael Jackson version that it’s hard to reconcile the tow.

  • Cirandar” (Audio Only)
  • “Saudosa Bahia” (Audio Only)
  • “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” (Audio Only)
  • “Pai Joao”
  • “Rock With You” (Audio Only)

[READ: October 19, 2015] The Last Interview and Other Conversations

I have never really read any Borges (a piece here and there sure, but I have his Collected Fictions waiting for me and just haven’t gotten to it. However, when I saw this book at work I decided to give it a read. I have very much enjoyed the other books in The Last Interview series (there are ten and I have read four) so I thought I’d like this too, and I did.

Borges is a fascinating individual. He was legally blind from a youngish age and was completely blind by the time of the last interview. He was humble (but not exactly humble—he genuinely didn’t think he was that great of an author). He was a pacifist (remaining neutral even in WWII) and basically spent his whole life immersed in books.

This book contains three interviews

“Original Mythology” by Richard Burgin (from Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges, 1968)

“Borges and I” by Daniel Bourne, Stephen Cape, Charles Silver (Artful Dodger 1980)

“The Last Interview” by Gloria Lopez Lecube (La Isla FM Radio, Argentina, 1985) [translated by Kit Maude] (more…)

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secretevilSOUNDTRACK: ABAJI-Tiny Desk Concert #47 (February 15, 2010).

abajiThis is the only time I have heard of Abaji. He is an unimposing man with roots in Greece, Turkey, Armenia and France.  He sings gently (often in Arabic with some English) and he plays while he sings.

The impressive thing about Abaji is his skill and love of musical instruments.  The notes say “when recording his latest album, Origine Orients, he played 10 different instruments, many of them simultaneously, with no second takes or overdubs. It took him just two days.”

“Min Jouwwa” (which means “From Inside”) is played on  what looks like a normal guitar but which sounds so very different. The notes say it’s “a tricked-out Western-style guitar with extra strings, giving it the sound of an Egyptian oud.”

“Steppes”  is a brief haunting instrumental.  It’s played by bowing a soft-toned kamancheh (a three-stringed instrument that you hold upright on your lap for a scratch, middle eastern sound).  He often times rocks the instrument instead of the bow back and forth.

The final song is played on the Greek bouzouki (with whistling as accompaniment).  “Summertime” is the Gershwin song (which is only recognizable from the words–the first verse anyhow, which he sings in English–the second verse he sings in Arabic).  It sounds nothing like the original with the serpentine riffs and that unique bouzouki sound.

I only wish the cameras were still rolling after the set because “he demonstrated a large duduk (an Armenian cousin of the oboe), an Indonesian suling (flute) and a Colombian saxophone (of sorts) made from bamboo that looked more like a snake.”

This is what I love about the Tiny Desk–seeing very different instruments and unconventional performers up close.  Abaji is fun to watch.

[READ: May 7, 2015] The Secret of Evil

This has got to be the final posthumous collection of writings from Bolaño.  The Preliminary note from Ignacio Echevarria explains that this book is a collection of the final fragments that were found on Bolaño’s computer.  As such, the book consists primarily of works that are unfinished (some barely even started).

This isn’t as disappointing as it sounds because Bolaño seemed to write very thoroughly right form the beginning with his stories.  So even though they are incomplete, the section that is written feels fully fleshed out–and you can imagine that more will be coming. Echevarria says that “Bolaño rarely began to write a story without giving it a title and immediately establishing a definitive tone and atmosphere.”  This of course made it difficult for Echevarria to know what to compile here.

Not everything in this collection if unfinished.  And indeed, with Bolaño sometimes it’s unclear if the unfinished things were actually unfinished. (more…)

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harperioctSOUNDTRACK: BROOKLYN RIDER-Tiny Desk Concert #44 (January 26, 2010).

brooklynThis is one of the darkest Tiny Desk Concerts I’ve seen.  Meaning it is rather poorly lit.  I’m not sure why it is so dark in the office–oh, I see that it’s 4;30 PM.  But this string quarter isn’t hindered by it (although they do remark on it before the final song).

The notes state that the quartet (two violin, a viola and cello) loves Debussy and Brahms but they also write their own music and have teamed up with a Kurdish kamancheh player (or as the one player states, a Japanese shakuhachi player and an electronics musician).

The first song, “Vagharshabadi Dance” is an Armenian dance written by an Orthodox priest named Komitas. And they are quite animated as they play it.

In the introduction to the second piece called “Second Bounce” (which is a companion to a Debussy piece, which they play next). Colin Jacobsen (violin) says that he based it on the way a super ball’s first bounce is expected but the second can go anywhere.  And the notes they play are often unexpected (and bouncy).  They’re also quite hard (the viola player (Nicholas Cords) says the piece hurts his hand).  That piece is only a trio–they wanted to mix it up a bit.

The Debussy piece “String Quartet in G Minor: 2nd Movement” is very nice.  It’s got a lot of pizzicato (from all the instruments) while the others play a cool riff.  Johnny Gandelsman (violin) sat out of “Second Bounce” but he gets some great “solos” in this one.  I don’t know all that much by Debussy, but I like this.

“Ascending Bird” is sort of their theme song–an arrangement of a Persian folk song.  It has some incredibly fast riffs (even from the cello (Eric Jacobsen)) and some interesting scratching on the strings.

Check them out here.

[READ: March 6, 2015] “The Monkey Did It”

I had just read a short story by Murakami, so I was interested to read this piece by Galchen, whose insights are, I think, spot on.

toricelliShe talks about Murakami’s latest book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and she uses the simile  that Murakami’s works are like Torricelli’s Trumpet or Gabriel’s Horn–finite space with infinite surface area.  And while I wouldn’t say that I thought of that myself, I would say that I have often thought that his stories seem so simple (at least in plot) but there is so much more in them.

I like the way that she talks about his books as having a plot that sums up pretty easily, but within the plot several other new threads are opened.  And they are more metaphysical at the same time.

In the novel friends vanish, but that is not the main plot.  Rather, Tazaki is haunted by the fact that his friends abandoned him some time ago.  His girlfriend Sara tells him he needs to figure this out.  So he sets off on a kind of quest.  Galchen notes that the girlfriends in his stories are always encouraging the main characters to do these quests. (more…)

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