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Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Silent Night” (2009).

There’s been quite a lot of songs coming out for Amazon Soundtracks lately.  This Christmas song comes from Eric Paschal Johnson’s short film The Letter.

There have been probably hundreds of recordings of “Silent Night,” one of the few Christmas songs that I feel should not be tampered with. It’s a beautiful song and if done right can be incredibly moving.

Sharon’s version is really fascinating to me.  It’s not especially traditional.  Indeed, it feels very contemporary.  The music is a kind of throbbing bass note, almost like a slow, dance song.  It pulses and changes pitch, but all quite slowly.

And yet, the song doesn’t feel like a dance song.  Sharon doesn’t sing it like a pop song at all.  Rather, she sings gently in a deep register–very earnestly.  After a verse, a second vocalist comes in and adds some dreamy backing vocals.

For the third verse, a simple drum rhythm is added.  The song is now much fuller than when it started and yet it’s not all that different.

It’s really quite a lovely update to the song and an all around excellent version.

[READ: December 14, 2019] “Natural Light”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story played around with linear reality in a number of ways.

It opens with the narrator telling us her mother is dead, but that she keeps getting emails from her.

She wanted me to know that a small penis size was not an indictment against my future happiness….  She needed some money for an emergency that had unfolded, totally beyond her control, somewhere at an airport in Nigeria.

The narrator could not bring herself to flag the spam.

She also continued to wear her wedding ring even though they had been divorced for a year.  Her husband had said more than once “I can’t imagine t he man who would have an easy time living with you.”  There are a few instances where the ex-husband comes up in the story which really flesh out what’s happening.  The ring wasn’t a hope for reconciliation.  Rather, it was a reminder that her unhappiness was not only a chemical dysfunction. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GIL SHAHAM-“Partitat No. 2 “Gavotte en Rondeau” by J.S. Bach” (Field Recordings, January 12, 2012).

This was the very first Field Recording posted on the NPR site back in 2012 [Gil Shaham: A Violinist’s Day At The Museum].

Shaham plays Bach in the Hirshiorn Museum.

As Gil Shaham wandered through the back offices of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., he said he felt “like Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum.” For this impromptu Bach mini-recital, the violin superstar momentarily became part of the art, bathed in the modish lighting and projections of a multimedia installation during the performance.

He is introduced with the rather amusing:  “A world famous, world renowned violinist who, by the way, starts every morning with a bowlful of Cap’n Crunch.  He told me that.”

I love that this first Field Recording was, like many of NPR’s best things, a spontaneous idea:

A crowd packed the exhibit room to watch as Shaham launched into Bach’s third partita. After the performance, the violinist greeted fans in the museum, many of whom were headed to his concert at the Kennedy Center that night. He seemed surprised and delighted that the guerrilla concert, announced only on local classical station WETA and Twitter that day, drew so many people willing to hear Bach in the afternoon.

[READ: January 22, 2017] “Are We Not Men”

Boyle’s stories aren’t usually as fanciful as this.  But I loved it just as much as many of his other more down to earth stories.  I particularly enjoyed that it was set in the future, although there was no real statement of that until late in the story.  There were hints, which seem obvious in retrospect, but which at first just seemed like hyperbolic or metaphorical.

Like “the dog was the color of a maraschino cherry” or that the lawn incorporated “a gene from a species of algae that allowed it to glow under the porch light at night.”

The story opens with the cherry-colored dog killing an animal in the narrator  Roy’s front yard (on that grass).  He wanted to chase the dog away because it might ruin his grass.  Then he noticed that what the dog had killed was his neighbor Alison’s pig.  She loved that pig and anthropomorphized it.  To try to salvage the pig, he ran up to the dog waving his arms.  It immediately latched onto his forearm instead.

As Roy fights with the dog, the dog’s owner, well, the daughter of the owner, came running across the street.  She looked like a teenager but was actually 11 or 12.  When the girl says, “You hit my dog,” he replies that she bit him.  The girl says Ruby would never do that–she’s just playing.

Amid this horrorshow of blood and violence and death, and a sprinkling of genetic splicing, Boyle throws in a very funny experiment gone wrong.  Crowparrots were a modified bird which blended crows with the invasive parrot population.  It believed that the experiment would turn the parrots into carrion eaters.  But instead it made their calls loud and more frequent.  And they mimicked, so they “were everywhere, cursing fluidly, (“Bad bird! Fuck, fuck, fuck!“).” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DANIEL HOPE-three pieces (Field Recordings, August 21, 2013).

The only thing I like more than a Field Recording set outside, is one set in an unlikely building, like the way this Field Recording [Daniel Hope’s Earth And Sky Expedition] is set in the American Museum of Natural History.

When Daniel Hope was a boy, the only thing he loved as much as his violin was his telescope. Gazing into the night sky, he pondered the vastness of space. Now a grown man, Hope still has a penchant for wonder and discovery — especially when it comes to music.

In his latest album, Spheres, Hope returns to the spirit of those early astronomical adventures. His idea, he says, is “to bring together music and time, including works by composers from different centuries who might perhaps not always be found in the same galaxy.” The unifying factor is the big question: Is there anything out there?

What better place to play with that ancient query than the Rose Center for Earth and Space at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. We invited Hope and jazz bassist-composer Ben Allison into the “performance crater” in the Hall of Planet Earth.

As if the Hall isn’t interactive enough — with its glowing orbs and 4.3 billion-year-old zircon crystal — we wrangled afternoon museum-goers to participate in our own Earth and sky expedition. Equipped with small flashlights, they became the twinkling stars surrounding Hope and Allison in the darkened room.

The music seems to live and breathe in the space, as each of the three pieces (spanning four centuries) reverberates a unique voice. “Imitation of the Bells,” with its rippling arpeggios and tolling bass line, comes from the long forgotten Johann Paul von Westhoff, a German violin master who crisscrossed Europe a generation before J.S. Bach. In “Berlin by Overnight,” from contemporary Max Richter, Hope’s violin asteroids whiz past while Allison’s bass propels through outer space. And finally, the otherworldly beauty that is Bach’s “Air on a G String” floats in a safe, gentle stasis.

It’s neat watching the little kids swing their flashlights around while the older kids watch on, bored, from the balcony during “Imitation of the Bells.”  Hope’s violin is flying in a flurry of activity while the bass keeps things grounded.

I’m not sure that I have heard many violin pieces performed with a bass accompaniment.  The bass doesn’t add a lit of melody to the violin work, but it adds a very cool feeling of grounding and rhythm especially in “Berlin by Overnight.”  The piece feels very contemporary with a cool, fast, Glassian kind of repetitiveness.  And the bass adds occasional notes (that feel like rock bass notes, he plucks so hard) to keep the pace going.

The bass is much more pronounced on the familiar J.S. Bach: Air on a G String.  I feel an imperceptible sitting up straight once the first notes ring out of the violin.  But I keep coming back to the bass.  The violin melody is so pretty and so familiar that it’s interesting to listen to the way the bass plays off those notes.

[READ: February 9, 2018] “The Botch”

I have not enjoyed Means’ stories in the past.  They’re usually pretty violent and just not my thing.

This one was a bit more enjoyable until the end.  The only problem with it per se was that it was about a bank robbery and I feel like there’s not much you can say about a bank robbery that hasn’t been said in films and stories already.

But there’s some interesting tweaks.  It is set around the Great Depression–tommy guns and wise guys.  And the mastermind behind the scheme has thought out everything ahead of time.  There is a repeated refrain of “the idea is” which I kind of liked.  Although for some reason it bugged me when it was switched to just “idea being,” which I know is how it would be said, but it bristled. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GREGORY PORTER-“Be Good (Lion’s Song)” (Field Recordings, May 14, 2013).

The still from this Field Recording [Gregory Porter: A Lion In The Subway] certainly led me to think that Porter would be singing on an actual moving train car (the ambient noise would be IMPOSSIBLE to filter out).

Of course, it wasn’t the most practical (or legal–bands and other musical acts need to audition to even set up underground. And those are just the “official” performers) thing to actually get Gregory Porter to perform on an operational MTA train. So we asked him if he’d perform for us at the New York Transit Museum in downtown Brooklyn, a collection of vintage memorabilia and reconditioned cars housed in a former subway station. All the better: Porter has a way with vintage suits, and there was a fortunate coincidence about the way it all felt right among the period-specific ads which flanked him. Accompanied by pianist Chip Crawford — who perfectly punches and beds the gaps here — Porter sang his original “Be Good (Lion’s Song),” a parable of unrequited affection.

The only thing I know about Gregory Porter comes from his Tiny Desk Concert.  I marveled that he wore a hat with ear flaps the whole time.  Well, he does the same thing during this song.

Gregory Porter has the frame of a football linebacker — maybe because he once was one, for a Division I college — and the rich, booming voice you might expect from a guy with such lungs. It cuts through a crowd with its strength, in the manner of an old-school soul singer; it demands attention with its sensitivity. If Porter weren’t winning over the international jazz club and festival circuit, he’d rise above the din wherever he went.

This is a sweet, quiet song, befitting him and the location.  The lyrics are a clever metaphor about lions and love.

[READ: October 22, 2017] “Scared of the City”

This is an essay about being white in New York City.

Franzen says that in 1981 he and his girlfriend were finishing college and decided to spend a summer in New York City– a three-month lease on the apartment of a Columbia student on the comer of 110th and Amsterdam.  It had two small bedrooms and was irremediable filthy.

The city seemed starkly black and white “when a young Harlem humorist on the uptown 3 train performed the ‘magic’ act of making every white passenger disappear at Ninety-Sixth street, I felt tried and found guilty of my whiteness.”

A friend of theirs was mugged at Grant’s Tomb (where he shouldn’t have been) and now Franzen was morbidly afraid of being shot.  The impression of menace was compounded by the heavy light-blocking security gates on the windows and the police lock on the door.

Franzen made some money when his brother Tom came into the city to do some work for hot shot photographer Gregory Heisler at Broadway and Houston.  Franzen was a gopher and made trips around the Bowery and Canal Street but he knew not to go to Alphabet City. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (May 25, 2017).

Second of four shows at The Horseshoe Tavern dubbed Spring Nationals. First Time played live for the new songs Rear View (Tim), Here Come The Wolves (Dave B), AC/DC On My Radio (Dave B/Dave C).
Lineup is:
Dave Bidini / Dave Clark / Hugh Marsh / Ford Pier / Martin Tielli / Tim Vesely

The show starts with a kind of quiet, hushed version of “Stolen Car” with cheers for Hugh’s violin solo at the end of the song. And then Martin introduces “Ford Kristofferson on the keyboards” (Man I wish I could see what Ford looks like).

Someone shouts “Rheos rule” and Clark comments, “if we did, there’d be world peace.”

They play a wonderful combination of “King Of The Past” (Clark: King of the Pasta) and “Northern Wish.”

The crowd whoops and Dave says that that is the appropriate sound for the new song.  Clark: “It’s called “Confused Wolf.”  The song is really called “Here Come The Wolves” and it’s a powerful song with great toms and violins.

This one [“P.I.N.”] is called “Snakes on a Plane.”

Clark says “Big thanks to Dani Nash and her rocking band.  She also drums for the Samantha Martin Band.  She is a wicked drummer and a knockout visual artist, too.

[We’re skipping a song on the setlist, shhh–they were going to play “Bridge Comes Tumbling Down”].  They “bridge” to “Music Is The Message” and as Tim says, “we played a bunch of new songs last night and playing them again tonight and they’re completely different.  It’s awesome.”

Dave B: We’ll try to play this next song (Dave’s “Mountains And The Sea”) well for once.

Clark says “That is the first chord of Dust in the Wind, right?  It was a hit for them, why not us?”

There was a lengthy solo from Hugh including a funny bit where he holds off on playing notes busting all the anticipation.

Martin comments: “I’ll call you David from now on.”
DB: “Are you mad at me?”
MT: “No it’s jut you insist on that….  Don’t Davids bug you?  Or Mikes who insist on being called Michael.”
DB: “I’d like to send that out to Michael Philip Wojewoda who is here tonight.”
MT: “I’ve always hated that about Michael Phillip.”
Tim: The only thing worse that David is “Daveed”
Clark: “And yet David Durango is one of the nicest guys going.” (I can’t figure out who they are talking about).
MT: He’s the only guy who almost drummed for Nick Buzz.  A Band with a “no drummer” policy.”
DS: “No drummer policy? Where do I sign up?”

Tim will surprise us with an instrument change…
Someone in the audience: “Polka the shit out of us, Tim!”
DB: “There’s heavy male patter presence, which must be offset at some time.”

Tim is on “the gentleman’s instrument” for “What’s Going On Around Here?”  It sounds great to hear again, although Tim says, “that accordion was exhaling musty basement smell in my face. It’s been down there a long time.”

Up next is a duet with Hugh and Tim (on acoustic) doing “Bad Time To Be Poor” it’s very cool to hear it this way.

Dave announced the last new song of the night.  “I know you want to hear new songs but you get worried, I hope they play the one I like.  But you’re such an elastic forgiving crowd, you’ll let us do anything.”
Tim: ” Wednesday’s crowd were a bunch of assholes.”
(Someone in audience: “I’m never coming back.”)
Tim: “This is the best crowd ever.”
Martin: “Maybe the penultimate.  There was one other that was better.  They were so good.  I loved them.  I dream about them.”

Tim tells a story about opening for The Hip and getting ambivalent and odd crowds.  We expected that.  There was no abuse.

But Dave B says they played in Quebec in purple and orange jackets and people laughed… they got it!  We should be bigger in Quebec.

Martin says in New Brunswick somebody threw something at us.  Martin says he picked it up and whipped it right back at them.
But Dave says at another show, something hit Martin and he got pissed, but it was a T-shirt that said “We love you Rheostatics.”

Tim: “The moral of the story… Fucking Rheostatics fans.”

They play a wonderful “The Albatross” which is really gelling live and then a solid “Legal Age Life At Variety Store” (with an introduction to Tim Mech).  Dave shouted that he end, the Eagleson ripped off Bobby Orr line and Tim shouted “can’t you ever get over that?” During “Self Serve Gas Station” Martin sings “What went wrong with Ford?”

After some banter they’re on to “Shaved Head” which sounds great even though Martin misses a lyric.  It doesn’t throw him, although he does apologize later.

The pretty ending gets cut off but only by a little I’d guess. And they go for an encore.

After the break Dave Clark comes out to sing an a capella version of “Johnny’s Got A Problem” by D.I.   The crowd is really into it and sings along.

As soon as Martin starts playing the crazy guitar intro to “When Winter Comes” someone in the crowd goes crazy “Oh my God!  Oh my God!”  It sounds great to hear again as well.

They end the night with a song “co-written by Paul Quarrington.  Go to a library and take out one of his books.”  A lovely version of “Claire.”

It seems like maybe there might be more, but that’s where the recording ends.  The new songs have been getting better and better, and the band is having a lot of fun up there.  Dave Clark is even being a bit more silly, but nothing like he was back in the old days.

[READ: May 18, 2018] “Candidate”

This is a story of a man who works for a presidential candidate.

It is told in first person in the present and in flashbacks.

The flashbacks talk about how he and his best friend Spencer were marginal kids in school.  Spencer in particular was a somewhat shunned individual–he could have been in the Trench Coat Mafia.  But while the narrator and Spencer shared the same views and ideas, the narrator passed more easily with the other kids. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (May 24, 2017).

After decades of live Rheostatics shows, this one finally catches up to just one year ago today.  Which means that after this four-night run, the only unmentioned shows from Rheostatics Live are ones from this past December.

I really wanted to get to these shows in person, but four nights in May in Toronto is not easy for me to swing.

First of four shows at The Horseshoe Tavern dubbed Spring Nationals. Dave Bidini, Dave Clark, Martin Tielli, Tim Vesely, featuring Hugh Marsh on Violin and Ford Pier on Vocals and Keyboards. In addition to the newer songs that they played in the Winter, they debuted three new songs: Rear View (Tim), Here Come The Wolves (Dave B), AC/DC On My Radio (Dave B/Dave C).

This show is “only” 2 hours long, which is something of a surprise, but maybe not for a Wednesday night.  The sound quality is great and there is a ton of hilarious banter.

“Saskatchewan” takes a while to start but it’s worth the wait as Martin and everyone else sound terrific.  Interestingly, the music sounds somewhat different with the keys and violin.  Not radically different, but noticeable.

Martin says, “That was called ‘Saskatchewan’ we wrote it in the 1940s.”

Next up is Dave Clark’s newish song “Super Controller.”  There’s a long fiddle intro before the big “bah bah bah bah dah dah dah dah.”  It segues right into “Soul Glue” where everyone does their parts wonderfully–especially the vocals.

The Daves offer a “big shout out to Friendly Rich” for opening the show and congratulations to Rich for some awesome music games for people to play.  He’s loving and kind and he’ll hug you….  but only if you ask him to.

Dave: “Great to see you all on Wednesday night–the first of 4 shows.  We’ve got opening night jitters.  Not really, we’re mailing it in.”
Martin:  “I’ve got the jitters.”
Martin to Dave: “You’re the most nervous driver I know.  No, your driving makes the most people nervous, but you are the opposite of the uptight driver.  You dance with the car.”
Dave: “Hugh and Martin don’t drive.  They’re both totally way too smart to drive.”
Martin: “We care too much about the planet.”

Pointing to the keyboards: Dave: “That’s Ford Pier.  We can’t decide if he looks like Kris Kristofferson, Kenny Loggins and… who’s the third person?”
Dave C: “I said he looks like Ronnie King from the Stampeders.”
Ford: “Who said Michael Phillip?  That’s who I was going for.”

Next up is “P.I.N.” which sounds very pretty with the violin.

Then there’ a pretty, mournful, almost Slavic violin and guitar opening to a mellow song played for the first time, Dave B’s: “Here Come The Wolves” (7:11).  Once the thundering drums kick in it’s got a kind of Jethro Tull quality.  It’s long and compartmentalized and ends with chants and tom toms.

Once it ends, Dave says, “New songs are scary, which is a good thing.”
Audience Member: (It was great)
Dave B: “Oh geez… that’s not what I was fishing for, but thank you.”
Dave C: “I liked it because I noticed Tim is howling.”
Tim: “I’d like to say that old songs are terrifying too.”
Dave B: “When you’re on the accordion.”
Dave C: “I only recently learned the next song “Sickening Song” is about sex.
Martin: “With the lowering of sexual drive comes the perception of subtlety.”

There’s a whole bit about sex and cum and ever so much more. It’s quite funny.

Then Martin gets on a long rant about the movie Urgh: A Music War.  He speaks of it lovingly as a good cross-section, of good and bad bands from the era.  Bands were very diverse.  There was no one style.  The music was free.  I love that.  So does my brother, John.

Dave Clark: “As Annie Hall would say, ‘Well, La di dah.'”
DB: “I’m going to turn off the Martinator.”‘
Tim: “I liked stage-fright Martin a lot better.” [much laughter on that].

Martin can take the joke and informs us that “Tim’s gonna accompany me on the gentleman’s instrument” (the accordion) for “Sickening Song.”  It’s great to hear this older, more unusual song.

Fave mentions that they have the new “Brave New Waves”–the first ever band on the show back in 1988 and “we sound very energetic and enthusiastic and it’s  got Dave Clark rapping on it.  It’s worth the $75.  No it’s not $75.”

Next up is Tim’s new song, “Music Is The Message.”  This is a really enjoyable version of this song, the other instruments come to the fore and Hugh Marsh’s violin is wonderful.  It’s followed by a brand new Tim song (first time plated) “Rear View” (4:16).  This one is a bit more upbeat and folkie-sounding.  Martin even acknowledges: I like that one, Tim.”
Tim: “That was a first for that one live.”

[Dave puts down the guitar and sings into jut the mic]: “It’s about to become a Corky and the Juice Pigs gig, you realize.”

He continues: “There will be no spoken word tonight sir, we will express our thoughts in melody and song.  When you go hand-held, the stand is your friend.  This is a song about coming to a new land.  “Mountains And The Sea” is a pretty song although it might be too much for Dave to sing by himself–there’s some notes that he strains with. I could see it more for Tim or Martin.  But the melody is nice and the middle improv violin section is quite cool.

Martin is back for “California Dreamline” and he sounds great.  And then comes “Claire.”  For the first time in a long time, there’s no acoustic opening, it just starts and rocks on.”

Dave starts to talk about the Rock and Roll Journey Train that their management dreamed up.  Take you up north on our journey train.
Clark: Loving, touching, hugging, squeezing.
Martin’s reaction is great: “What?  What are you talking…?”

Dave: We’re about 4 an a half songs from the end.  Did you randomly say nine more?  Then we will break for…
Tim: “A day.”

Tim: “Be excited for the next song its like 5 in one.”
Dave: “It’s a value added composition…”
Tim: “A Groupon song.”

And then there’s this amusing discourse:

This next song features Hugh Marsh on the violin.  It doesn’t, but still it seemed like a good time to mention it.

Dave Clark: The Satchel Page of the violin… Hugh Marsh.
Dave B: “He’s got a few years before he can we can all him that, Dave.”
DC: “Ok, The Ellen Page of the violin!
Martin: “The Ayn Rand of the violin!”
Ford: “That sounds like a shitty thing to be.”
DB: “Ford Pier, the Geraldine Page of the keyboard.”
Ford: “That’s equally shitty.”
DB: “Tim Vesley, The Stephen Page of the bass, see its just getting lower and lower isn’t it.”
Martin [clearly not getting the “page” part of the joke] “Dave Bidini, the Daryl Hannah of the rhythm guitar.”
[pause]
Martin: “I’m waiting, I want one.”
DC: “The Suzanne Somers of the guitar.”

Then they discuss how much good Suzanne Somers has done for people.

Dave B asks Dave C: “Remember The Alan Hamel Show Dave?  Wasting away, thinking about ending it all?”
Martin doesn’t know it.
DB: “It’s peak Canadian afternoon television.”

Then Dave asks for a gin and tonic.

Martin explains that “The Albatross” is based on a poem by Baudelaire and then mentions a song by The Godfathers with the lyric, “I don’t read Baudelaire.”

Then there’s a discussion about The Beachcombers and the Bigfoot double episode–all shows about Bigfoot have to be double length.  Martin says “a presented theory is that Bigfoot ritually bury their dead in Alaskan glaciers.”

Dave B: “I’m not getting my G&T am I?  That was ten minutes of patter….”

It’s the most fun version of “The Albatross” yet.

It’s followed by “A song about hockey and sex and being gay…yeah. you;ll see.”  Its a fun version of “Queer” with lots of backing vocals and the keyboards (or violin) doing all kinds of crazy sound effects.  The song builds up into Dave B’s new song (first time played) ” AC/DC On My Radio” (4:03) which is a much more rocking but still simple song.  Clark sings the middle verse.

After an encore, Dave sings “My First Rock Concert.”  He mentions Meatloaf and says “he just wont go away…”    Tim asks, “Did you see anybody else?  Frank Sinatra?”  Dave: “Sinatra wasn’t that big in the new wave scene.”

Martin plays a lovely version of “Stolen Car” which segues into a blistering “RDA” which they have to stop because it’s only a warm up.  Then they do it again, even better.

Dave says good night, but they play the conclusion of ‘Queer’ as Dave Clark introduces everyone in a real DJ voice.  Martin launches into the “Green Sprouts Theme” although with no fast part before it segues back into “Queer” to end the night.

The band sounds fantastic and rejuvenated.  I really must try to get to see them next time they play The Horseshoe.

[READ: May 18, 2018] “Artifacts”

Geoffrey works at a history museum in the Yukon.  There was a room dedicated to the gold rush of 1989 with rusty pans and pickaxes. But more interesting to him was the prehistory room next door: Beringia, it was called, that place where the ice wasn’t.

The room held replicas of giant sloth, giant short faced-bear and a mammoth.  Animals that were familiar, yet not.

Geoffrey was dating a woman, Ida, who had moved to the Yukon because she was “into ice ages.”  She had heard of Beringia even though he, who had studied anthropology. had not.  She was somewhat cold and inflexible like a museum exhibit.

The crux of this story involves a meeting between scientists, environmentalists and Janice, Geoffrey’s boss.  She is determined not to cave to the environmentalists who want an exhibit to address glob.  Janice may have believed in global warming but “what belongs in my museum is another matter altogether.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN ZORN’s A Dreamer’s Christmas (2011).

You can never say with certainty what kind of music you will get with a John Zorn record.  It could be beautiful; it could be scary.  It could be chaotic; it could be traditional.  There’s could be death metal or gentle jazz.  There could be vocals or not.

Some time in 2008, Zorn started yet another project.  This one was called The Dreamers and it proved to be on the mellow, jazzy side of his spectrum.

The members have been Cyro Baptista − percussion; Joey Baron − drums; Trevor Dunn − acoustic and electric Bass; Marc Ribot − guitars; Jamie Saft − keyboards and Kenny Wollesen − vibes, chimes, glockenspiel.  For A Dreamer’s Christmas, Mike Patton (notorious for making a racket) sings some delightful vocals on 2 songs.

The album contains eight tracks: six traditional and two original Zorn compositions.

“Winter Wonderland” is played on vibes.  There’s a cool repeating bass signature that bounces the song along and a groovy jazzy keyboard background before the electric guitar comes in to play the main riff.

“Snowfall” is just lovely with more vibes and a delicate guitar and twinkling piano.  There’s even some hand drums to add some cool percussive effects.  the songs is primarily a lovely piano instrumental.  I don’t understand why I don’t know this song.  Why isn’t it on other Christmas albums?  It’s lovely.

“Christmastime is Here” is, indeed, the song from The Peanuts movie.  The main melody is guitar and vibes and this version is possibly more entertaining than the original.

“Santa’s Workshop” is a John Zorn composition.  It’s faster and a bit more upbeat than the others, but with a really groovy riff and some fun vibes to match it.  There’s also a fun keyboard solo.  This song first in perfectly with the others.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”  begins with a quiet and somber piano playing the melody.  It’s a lovely piece with some fun piano noodling.

“Let It Snow” starts with a bell and a rather funky bass line.  After a minute or so the guitar takes over to play the main melody.  There’s some weird and wacky 70s keys playing around in the background that you don’t really notice right away.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is the first odd-sounding track on the disc.  The guitar is plucked and the percussion seems to be all kinds of small wooden things clattering around.  I assume someone is playing the rims of glasses as well.  That goes on for a minute before the piano comes in and it gets very jazzy (with an upright bass).  It sounds a lot like the kind of piano playing featured in Charlie Brown.  The end of the song features a kind of whispered, slightly sinister take on the lyric by Patton.

“Magical Sleigh Ride” is the second Zorn original.  It is a swift-moving treat–fluid bass, repeated guitar licks and solos, and a fast percussion beat before the melody kicks in.  After about 2 minutes there’s a pretty wild and rollicking guitar solo.  It’s the most intense thing on the record (which isn’t very intense really) but all along the jazzy pianos and percussion remains.  Its followed by a similarly exuberant vibes solo.  It’s another great Christmas song and fits in perfectly with the others.

“The Christmas Song” returns to the traditional with a lovely, quiet piano rendition of the song and a nice vocal delivery from Mike Patton.  Patton is in perfectly deep-voiced crooner mode and it suits everything perfectly.  There’s a lengthy piano solo in the middle and then Patton finishes the song.

The disc ends with everyone wishing us a Merry Christmas.

It is a surprising and wonderful Christmas album worthy of addition to everyone’s collection.

[READ: November 26, 2017] The Crown of Fire

This is the fourth and final book in the Copernicus series.  There is no third or fourth mini book (I wonder why there wasn’t at least at third one).

I found this book to be exhausting and depressing.   And that’s because for the most part that’s how the characters felt–exhausted and depressed.  I also felt more exhausted by the series than I apparently felt after book three.  I thought I had stopped because I was burnt out on the series, but that’s not the impression I get from reading my post.  But this book did get very dark for most of its 500+ pages.

Lily and Darrell are together by themselves and they are fleeing once again.  They eventually find someone who will help them leave the country in a cargo ship–two weeks in a tiny hold by themselves.  Even Darrell who is still crazy about Lily finds it a bit much.

Back in the other part of the world, Becca Wade and Sara have just gotten a message from Roald.  But it turns out to be a trap. (more…)

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