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Archive for the ‘Talking Heads’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-Helter Stupid (1989).

Helter Stupid was the follow-up to Negativland’s “smash hit” (maybe 10,000 copies sold?  I have no idea) Escape from Noise.

It is a concept album based on a hoax that they perpetrated.  Wikipedia summarizes:

In 1988, the group released a mock press release to suggest that the song “Christianity Is Stupid” was connected to murders by David Brom, and that the group was forced to cancel a planned tour in support of Escape from Noise. However, there were no connections with the murders, and the tour was cancelled only due to shortage of funds and free time. Their next album, Helter Stupid, made use of the event by sampling news reports of the controversy surrounding Negativland.

So they generated their own controversy and then made art from it.  Can you imagine the attention that would get in 2019 compared to the minor coverage they got in 1989?

The first half of the album is composed of the tracks “Prologue” and “Helter Stupid” which form an extended piece lasting over 22 minutes. The concept, and some of the sampled material, came from a San Francisco television news program that was taken in by the media hoax. Other samples used included those from Rev. Estus Pirkle (further samples from the same sermon used in “Christianity Is Stupid”), an interview with Charles Manson, and “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles.

The disc opens with a man reciting lewd(ish) rock lyrics.  Then comes clips of ads for murder movies–murder, mayhem, marauding!

The prologue continues with extended samples of the news reports that talks about them being connected to the murder case.  At the end of the track a phone rings.

Song 2 begins with a call from Rolling Stone asking if there is any backward masking on “Christianity is Stupid.”

The rest of the 18 or so minutes is a mashup of all kinds of samples, spliced and cut up.

we don’t have enough data ; S-I-M-P-L-O-T ; murder and music–this isn’t the first time controversial music has been linked to tragedy.  A lengthy quite from Charles Manson and one from John Lennon

There is section where engineers hear something on a tape when you run it backwards–play it backward and you hear (rather amusing) evil messages.

Then comes the riff of Helter Skelter with The Beatles singing Helter and then “Stupid” sampled over “Skelter.”  The middle of the track goes on to emphasize how stupid the controversy is by continuing to use the “stupid” sample in all places

It’s believed night stalker suspect Richard Ramirez was influenced by AC/DC’s Highway to Stupid album. Ozzy Osborne song “Stupid Solution” became the focal point of an actual stupid case involving a Southern California teenager

And then a clever splice to create: “Christianity is triggering the murders.”

It’s intense and thought provoking and sometimes funny.

Side Two is completely different.  There’s 7 tracks all called “The Perfect Cut” with different parenthetical names after each one.  It’s introduced as Dick Vaughn’s Canned Music Moribund Music of the 70s, brought to you in authentic 70s stereophonic format with music, news reports, contests, and more.  The tracks contain samples from “The Winning Score”, a 1977 presentation by TM Century, producers of radio jingles and imaging.

“The Perfect Cut (Canned Music)” talks about short IDs and promos for radio and loops the phrase “execute a perfect cut.”

“The Perfect Cut (Rooty Poops)” features someone talking about being the greatest radio personality in the world.  He then says he spins the dial and finds nothing good–what a bunch of rooty poops.  There’s lots of samples from 70s funk and the absurdly high note of “Loving You.”  There’s also a bit of Casey Casem.

“The Perfect Cut (Good as Gold)” is all about “staying power and the announcer wondering who will still be around 7 years from now in 1992.  Their list: Bruce Springsteen will not burn out’ Prince (unless he gets a whim and decides to drop out of music) ; Michael Jackson ; Lionel Ritchie ; U2 ; Bryan Adams ; Talking Heads; Eurhythmics.  [That list was about half right].   There are samples of : Fragmentation and standardization.

“The Perfect Cut (Piece of Meat)” mostly features a sample of someone growling “I’d like a piece of meat.”  And the admission that the music industry suffered from denationalization but it became big business.  All of this over disco bass and strings.

“The Perfect Cut (White Rabbit And A Dog Named Gidget)” opens with a high school student saying “I’d like to become a lawyer and go to UCLA.   I hear it’s got nice weather and lots cute guys.  I’d like a white rabbit convertible a dog named Gidget.  The most important thing in my life is to go to heaven when i die.”  There’s more Casey Casem talking about learning to appreciate new music.

“The Perfect Cut (11 Minutes)”  A Top 40 listener’s average listening span is only 11 minutes.  Jingles need to be shorter and more frequent.  A shotgun intro with accents on each of your call letters.   I enjoyed hearing this promo.

LPs sale priced at $2.66. 8-track tape $4.44 including this Billboard toppers: The Jackson 5, The Carpenters, Elton John, Neil Young,Cat Stevens, Black Sabbath, James Taylor, Ike & Tina Turner.

There’s also this news headlines for Dec 1978–the average price of gas soars to 76 cents per gallon (!).

Dick Vaughn–From Jan 1, 1970 to Dec 31, 1979, we’ve got your moribund music.

“The Perfect Cut (48 Hours)” is inspired by an ad “You’ve got 48 hours to save a lot of money.”

Someone says it’s so annoying I used to shut the radio right off.  Then there’s silence for 10 seconds followed by, “just when you thought it was safe to turn on your radio.”  And the promise/threat: “Nothing happens until someone buys something.”

The Weatherman shows up to talk about “sewer mouth.”

And then there’s this gem: Take 2 high quality stereo LPs, put them in a full-color jacket, add a beautiful sexy gal on front and candid photos of the KQ jocks inside and you’ve got a bombshell [EXPLOSION].

This is a fun and interesting experiment.  Some tracks do actually bear repeated listening to hear just what they’re trying to do.

Personnel: Richard Lyons (credited as “Dick Vaughn”) ; David Wills (uncredited) ; Don Joyce (uncredited) ; Mark Hosler (uncredited) ; Chris Grigg (uncredited)
Musical Samples The Beatles – “Helter Skelter” ; King Floyd – “Groove Me” ; Carol Douglas – “Doctor’s Orders” ; Minnie Riperton – “Lovin’ You” ; Tavares – “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel” & “It Only Takes a Minute” ; Zapp (unidentified) ; Brothers Johnson – “Strawberry Letter 23” ; Brick – “Dazz” ; Natalie Cole – “This Will Be” ; Joe Tex – “I Gotcha” ; Donna Summer – “Love to Love You Baby” ; Bebu Silvetti – “Spring Rain” ; Bill Summers & Summer Heat – “Jam the Box” ; Mungo Jerry – “In the Summertime”

[READ: April 20, 2019] “The Seven Circles”

This story started as one thing and then turned into something else very dramatically.

It begins with Vinod completing his B. Com and being told by his parents that he should get ready for marriage.  They had the girl picked out and since he had no objection to her, they went ahead with the plans.

He found himself at his future in-laws looking at the gifts that his bride-to-be, Sheetal, would bring with her.  He glanced at her during this surveying of the gifts and he was sure he saw her looking back at him with distaste.

He desperately tried to get her to look at him over the next few weeks, but even during the ceremony she would not look him in the eye.   He thought about running away during “the seven circles” of the ceremony, but he went through with it.

That first wedding night was awkward as they slowly got to know each other.  The had a little, but not much, in common.  And he didn’t even consider doing anything physical.  He did manage to get one kiss in before the night was over. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (February 17, 2001).

It’s hard to believe these shows were 18 years ago!

This was night 4 of 4 of the Horseshoe Tavern’s 53rd Birthday bash.  It was the final night and one of the longest shows I can recall at almost 3h in length. The Chickens opened the show.

It was hard to find information about The Chickens.  What I learned was that they were originally a band called U.I.C. which was first an acronym for Unemployment Insurance Commission but was later changed to Up in Canada.  They broke up and then years later reformed but as a different band.  From Now Toronto:

Not only do the Chickens boast the propulsive rhythm section of former U.I.C. drummer Murray Heywood and bassist Dan Preszcator along with the devastating firepower of U.I.C. guitarist Fred Robinson, but they also have the megacity’s most exciting microphone mauler, U.I.C.’s Dave Robinson, fronting the band.  That’s right, Exeter’s answer to the Stooges have clawed their way back from obscurity to kick ass with a vengeance. So why the name change? Well, despite the fashion-world dictate, the 80s are over and the Chickens aren’t a nostalgia act.  The songwriting savvy of former El Speedo guitarist Ken Mikalauskas has added a sharper pop edge to the compositions, as can be heard on the Chickens’ cranking new Prepare To Plug In (Egg-cellent) album.  “We went through about a million names and even contemplated going back to U.I.C., but it didn’t click. Ken has contributed so much to our sound that this really feels like a new group. Besides, none of us really liked the name U.I.C. anyway.”

So that’s the opening act.

For the main act, the band plays for nearly three hours.  They played almost all of Night of the Shooting Stars (songs are in bold–excluding “Remain Calm” or “Satan”).  There was a nice intro by Jeff Cohen (which states that The Horsehoe was originally a country club, which makes sense.)

And then they jumped n with six new songs.

“The Fire” which Martin says is “a new song Dave and i are working on.”  There’s some great harmonizing between the two of them at the end–they don’t duet enough.  It’s followed by some short, poppy song: “It’s Easy To Be With You” and “Superdifficult.”  Martin speaks the title through his robotic voice in low and high register and Tim says that thing was in my dreams last night.  It’s such a great but far too short song.

“The Reward” has such a great slinky guitar riff.  It’s another satisfying new song.  As is “Mumbletypeg” although they can’t seem to synch up on the intro to this song.  Dave yells “all together now” and they get going.  The new stuff ends with “Song Of The Garden” which Tim dedicates to Sarah Harmer’s new album.

Then it’s back to older songs.  There’s a soaring “Self Serve Gas Station” which segues into a screaming “RDA.”  They throw in some tags to The Clash’s “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” with DB shouting: “I’m so bored with the U.S.A.  I’m so angry at the U.S.A.  I don’t give  a fuck about the U.S.A.”  When the song is over, Dave says,  “We almost sounded like The Chickens there.”

There’s a discussion of music and hockey and The Chickens should be called The Gas Station Island Five since the starting line is the entire chickens band–they’re amazing on the ice.  One of them says “We’re gonna kick The Morningstars ass (Bidini’s team) at the Exclaim Cup.  DB notes: “Different division.  They can’t put us in the same division because there’s always a big terrible beautiful brawl when we play each other.  The Exclaim Cup.  April 13-15–it’s free.  It surprises you that it’s free to watch these guys play hockey?

Tim says they’re going “way back for” “Torque, Torque” which was fun to hear.  Especially since the follow-up the new song “In It Now” has a similar guitar sound.  I love the guitar riff and melody of this song.

They tale a small break to talk about the celebrities they’ve spotted on the last couple of nights, including Dave Reid, from Centennial High, where they performed Harmleodia.

Someone shouts “I’m looking for some fun” (the opening of Fish Tailin’)  DB: “Hey Martin that guy wants to talk to you.”  Martin says they’re playing something else.  When the guy shouts again, DB says, “Perhaps you would like to try another club if you’re still looking  Because we’re cooking.”

They play a great “Junction Foil Ball” during which a fire alarm goes off.  After the song Tim checks, “that wasn’t a real fire, right?  It was just Dave’s riff was too hot.”

They play a long “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” with a wild drum solo in the middle and loud and roaring ending.   Then they play “Me and Stupid” and Dave forgets the words in the first verse (perhaps the first time I’ve heard him forget a lyric) but he is undaunted and they do fine until the end.  Mid song, Don quotes a poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. “and done a hundred things/You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung.”  Then Dave quotes Wilderness Gothic by Steven J. Gibson “something is about to happen / two shores away a man hammering in the sky.”   [Both poems are printed in their entirety at the end of the post].


Martin’s been nominated for a Juno award for original art work–they’re never nominated for a musical category–the art has always been better anyway.  The Story of Harmelodia is being produced by the One Yellow Rabbit theater company in Calgary.  So up next is “The Sky Dreamed” on which Don Kerr takes lead vocals.

Don says he’d like to thank Maureen for “giving me an official Canadian tartan jacket, which means I am now an official Rheostatic.  Martin says Canadian tartan used to be our uniform.  Tim: and our bedding.

“Baby I Love You” a goof track from Nightlines Session is requested many times.  Tim says they considered it for Valentine’s Day, but it’s too complicated and doesn’t work without a Fender Rhodes.

For “Loving Arms” they are joined by Carmen from a fine band called Check (I guess). She sings backing vocals which sounds very pretty.  I never noticed that the ending melody sound like the guitar for “Here Comes the Sun.”  It’s followed by one more new song–a great version of “P.I.N.

Dave says they played Sydney, Cape Breton where they don’t get a lot of bands and they go crazy.  Somebody sent up shots of tequila and we stopped a song and played “Tequila.”  We kept shouting tequila but nobody was sending up any more shots.  And then all of a sudden there were 48 of them.  We’ve never been the same.

Then the bust out a surprise: “The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part 1 and 2.”  During the song, Dave B talks to Dave of the chickens about what it would be like playing against Wendell.

Then it’s time for two Stompin’ Tom songs.  “Horseshoe Hotel” which they learned just for this occasion.  Tom wrote it in 1971 about this hotel where people drank a lot.  Tim follows with “The Ketchup Song.”  people requests “Bud the Spud”, but they have a two song Tom quota.  Plus, no more than one song about potatoes you don’t wanna get to filled up on potato songs.

Then comes an amazing trip of a set ender.  A simply beautiful version of “Stolen Car” followed by an intense “Horses.”  The version includes Dave chanting the Talking Heads’ lines from “Crosseyed and Painless” and Martin reciting the Tragically Hip’s “Blow at High Dough” through his computer voice.  The noisy outro of Horses segues into a lovely quiet intro of “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” and the crowd goes nuts.

It’s an amazing set ender that should satisfy anyone, but the Rheos are not done.  After a fairly long break they’re going to play for about 40 more minutes.  Someone shouts “Saskatchewan” and Dave says, yes, we were gonna do that but we ran out of time.

So instead, it’s “Legal Age Life At Variety Store” which features Tim Mech on guitar.  As they start the chords, Dave says, “you’re writing something in your notebook but how do you know which song were doing?  We could be doing “Rockin My Life Away” by Jerry Lee Lewis or “The Swimming Song” by Loudon Wainwright III.  But of course it’s “Legal Age Life” and everyone gets solos: Freddy and Davey from The Chickens and Timmy (Mech) who does a weird solo.   Tim Dave and Fred–the triple threat!

Somebody shots “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” but Dave says they can’t do it without The Bourbons and the guy shouts “I take it back!”

Two more new songs include a rockin “CCYPA” and “We Went West” which seems a weird song for an encore (it’s pretty slow), but it sounds good.  It’s followed by another surprise, their version of Jane Siberry’s “One More Colour.”  Dave says that they have a song on the (incredibly diverse) compilation box set Oh What a Feeling 2.  Proceeds go to charity.  They are on it after Jane Siberry.

Then they leave, but they’re not done.  JC comes out and announces that it’s 2:30 in the morning (!).  Do you want to hear any more? No rules tonight.

The guys play “Northern Wish” in the crowd acoustic and unmic’d.  The recording is pretty good and the crowd really sings along–great fun there.

Everyone assumes they are done, but they’ve got room for one more, a rocking, late night version of “Introducing Happiness,” which sounds like it’s 2:45 in the morning but is pretty awesome, nonetheless.

What a show.

They played 63 different songs over the four nights.  There were 30 songs that were played more than once.

[READ: February 14, 2019] Mythical Irish Beasts

This book is a fun illustrated collection of the historical origins of Irish beasts.

Joyce does a lot of research (there’s footnotes!) and mentions many original documents to explain where these myths came from, but it is still a very simple introduction to these stories–a way to pique your interest.

He also illustrates every beast in his striking but unusual artistic style.  I really like the look of his beasts, but they are certainly unconventional.  They’re very modern looking, which is interesting for these ancient creatures.

There does not appear to be a reason for the order, but I’m going to list all of the creatures just because it’s fun to have some many weird words in print. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 21, 2017] Phish

I have wanted to see a Phish New Year’s Eve show for years.  But one should welcome in the New Year with people you love, so I will never go to a show on New Year’s Eve.  But this year I decided to try for a ticket for the night before New Year’s Eve.  Once I got my ticket I learned that many people feel like the 12/30 show is ultimately better than the 12/31 show–in terms of music, not theatricality naturally.

I was also pretty happy to find out that my friend Armando and his girlfriend were going.  So we wound up making an evening out of it.  They live near the train station, so I drove to their house and we walked to the train.  It was nice meeting his girlfriend (she is famous from his blog) and we all got along very well.  When we got into the City, he told me we were going to a great Peruvian restaurant really close to the arena.   And what a great find it was.  Rather than pizza or a hot dog we were able to eat a yummy (and filling meal) and it was quite fast as well.

Although, perhaps it could have been faster.  When we walked across the street to MSG, the line to get in was massive.  We never found out exactly what was going on, but they were holding everyone back at a barrier while the line thinned out.  We were running very tight to show time.  But the arena must have known that because the band did not go on as early as they usually do. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKGEORGIE JAMES-Builds ‘Monument’ In Two Days (Project Song: December 17, 2007).

Project Song was a nifty little show that NPR Music created.  The premise was that NPR would give a musician some prompts and a recording studio.  They then had two days to write and record a song.  I don’t know how much of the process was to be filmed, but presumably most of it. Then it would be edited down to a fifteen minute show.  The results are pretty cool and it’s a shame they only made five of them.

The second one they did was with Georgie James

Georgie James is a band on the rise [Note: they broke up on August 4, 2008]. The duo makes smart, infectious pop with tight harmonies and jangling guitars — an upbeat and innocent sound that’s made its debut album (Places, 2007) a sleeper success.  Georgie James got its start when drummer John Davis’ former band, Q and Not U, disbanded in 2005.  Davis turned to his singer-songwriter friend, Burhenn, to forge something new.

At first, the two seemed like an unlikely pair. Davis had spent the past seven years releasing records with his bandmates on the legendary D.C. punk label Dischord and touring the world. Burhenn, on the other hand, had been releasing solo projects on her own label, Laboratory Records, and playing smaller venues on the east and west coast.

They eventually settled on a stark but serene image by New York photographer Phil Toledano, depicting a bare room with a large pile of books stacked in the middle. For the phrase, the band chose “Something Joyful.”

Their process seems tense to me.  But maybe that’s just how they bounce ideas off of each other.

He chose the words “something joyful.”  She chose David Bowie and 45.
She likes the pile of books in empty room–she sees it youthful and he sees it as disuse, disrepair, neglect.  They decide to use that picture and the phrase “something joyful.”

She plays piano melody banging out ideas for the tune on the first day. There’s lots of discussion and back and forth–very different from Merritt’s solitary style.

“It’s really difficult when you have two people who are trying to meet in the middle,” Burhenn says. “We each had a different vision of where this was going to go, and to try to very quickly throw that together is a difficult thing.”

They change styles.  She suggests maybe a Talking Heads’ vibe.  She sings it in a David Byrne-ish drawl but he doesn’t like it.  She says this is turning into a nightmare and fears the song sounds like John Cougar Mellencamp or Rod Stewart.

But in the final hour they pulled it out.

Davis added drums, bass and guitar. The two layered the sound with multiple harmonies and hand-claps.

Two days later, they had a song they called “Monument.” It’s a three-and-a-half-minute pop gem that marries the contrasting loneliness of the photograph with the spirit of “something joyful.”

As they walk out she says, “I think it’s awesome.”  And it’s very catchy.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “All That Glass”

This is a peculiar story that starts out seemingly reasonable and then just goes off the rails.

A man says his wife no longer wants to sleep in the bedroom anymore.  He took it as an attack against him and wondered what he did.  But she ignores that and says she wants to move into the conservatory.  He agrees but says that “All that glass, it gets cold in there at night.”

She moves some basics into the conservatory.  He thought it was odd, but it gave the conservatory a good spring cleaning.

It was cold in there at night  She wore extra clothes though, and that was that. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING CRIMSON-The Elements Of King Crimson – 2017 Tour Box (2017).

The (so far) final Tour Box (although the band is still touring in 2018) is notable for having what might be the definitive collection of live “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic” recordings–Parts I to IV (and more) from different eras.

But that’s disc two.  Disc one continues with the sampling of the band’s career.

Disc 1 opens with “Wind.”  Although each “Wind” extract seems a tad different.  This one is all talking, no wind.”   (extract)  talking no wind.

Next comes an a capella first verse of “21st Century Schizoid Man.”  It’s just Greg Lake singing really loud before seguing into the rest of the song, this time from 2015.  It’s a great version.

Continuing like the other boxes, there’s an instrumental edit of “In The Wake Of Poseidon,” which is quite lovely.

This disc has a number of Mel Collins flute improvs taken from various Lark’s Tongue recordings in 2016.  Each one is wonderful and I could listen to his flute all day.

Another recording of “Peace,” this time with in a rehearsal that ends with Jakko cracking up because of something that Gavin has done (with lots of bad words bleeped out).

It’s followed by a stellar recording of “Cirkus” from 2016.  This is the first time played since 1972 and it sounds much more intense and complex than the version on the previous box.

It’s followed by an abridged instrumental recording of “Islands” and a 2015 live recording of “Easy Money” (complete with sound effects–I loved hearing this live the first time.

“Suitable Grounds For The Blues” is a 2015 rehearsals that ends when someone calmly says “It was Harrison, sir.  He made me laugh, sir.  He did the drum fill out of Hawaii 5-0 twice.

“The Great Deceiver” from 1974 sounds tremendous and I hope this means they might be busting it out for the 2018/19 tour.

“Asbury Park” is a live recording. It’s a fast and rollicking instrumental edited down to fit nicely with a terrific 2016 recording of “One More Red Nightmare.”

There’s a 2015 rehearsal of “Meltdown” and then a jump to an alternate (instrumental) mix of  “Thela Hun Ginjeet.”  I normally love these instrumental mixes, but i find that this song really uses the words wonderfully and I miss them.

The only other track from this era is a 1982 recording of “Heartbeat” which is insanely catchy and I can;t believe wasn’t a hit.  The disc ends with a 2008 performance of 1984’s “Sleepless” which sounds really 80s (the bass in particular) even though it was recorded in 2008.  I’ve often thought that Adrian Belew makes King Crimson sound like The Talking Heads, and that seems to be true with this song.

The disc ends with the intermission and photography announcement from 2016 concerts.

Disc 2 is the Lark’s Tongue disc, but it doesn’t start with it.  It opens with 2004’s “Form No. 1” with strings guitars and a Tony Levin groove.  Then there’s a version of “THRAK ” from the Thrak sessions.

The disc has several tracks called “Keep That One Nick” which are some early recordings and dialogue.  Each one is about 4 minutes long of guitars or drums or the whole band recording primarily parts of LTIA.

When the series starts, we’ve got a

2015 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part I” followed by a
1974 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part II.”

after a Nick recording of percussion (in which the drums sound like child’s toys and like Bruford is hitting everything in the studio, they continue the series with a

1984 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part III.”  This is my least favorite Part–I can;t get over how much I’m disliking the 1980s recordings, especially since  Discipline is one of my favorite KC albums.

after a recording jam of Part II (keep that one, Nick) there’s a

1999 recording of “Larks’ IV ConstruKction” where you can see the connection to the LTIA series in this song.  Then comes a

2003 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part IV” which sounds great once again.

It’s followed by a 2016 recording of “Level Five” which is sort of an unofficial Part 5 to LTIA.

Presumably these are Fripp’s favorite versions of the series. So there.

The disc and set ends with a radio advert for the Larks’ Tongues In Aspic album because who even knew they made radio adverts for albums.  It’s a great piece of history.

I imagine there will be a 2018 box, as the band has taken a few months off and is getting ready to start touring Europe and Japan through the end of the year.  And who knows, one more trip back to the U.S. in 2019?  Yea, I’d be ready to see them once more time by then.

[READ: February 1, 2017] Multiple Choice

I have really enjoyed Zambra’s stories a lot.  As with most of Zambra’s work, this one was translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell and I thought it was terrific.

As it turns out almost half of this book has been previously published: “Reading Comprehension: Text No. 1” (New Yorker, July 6 & 13, 2015) and “Reading Comprehension: Text No. 3” (Harper’s, July 2016).  In total, there are three Reading Comprehension texts in the book, as well as a few other types of “test questions.”

The original of this book was called Facsímil, and it uses “the structure and questions of the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test as its organizing principle. Called both a work of parody and poetry, Multiple Choice examines the role of the education system and standardized testing in promoting compliance to authoritarian rule.”

Since this book is set up like test there are 5 parts to work through.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-Live Phish Downloads 7.6.98 Lucerna Theatre, Prague, Czech (2007).

After finishing recording “The Story of the Ghost” in Vermont and Bearsville in upstate New York, Phish embarked on June 27th for a short European tour.

What’s interesting is that the official comments about this show talk about hoe legendary it was, and my takeaway was just how often someone (usually Trey) messes up.

“Buried Alive” is a surprising opening track.  It rocks and segues into a choppy “AC/DC Bag.”  The song ends with a funky section that segues into a 15 minute “Ghost.”  “Ghost has a fast and scorching middle jam section.”  I’m going to include some of the online notes here:

They deconstructed Bag’s concise jam into a perfect segue to the centerpiece of the show – a fast, funky and furious “Ghost.”  You can clearly hear the sonic flourishes layered over a driving groove with confident vocals that seethed energy. The dynamic feel of “Ghost” lent deep drama to the lyrics, highlighted the loops and effects and provided an ideal platform for some hairy soloing. Page migrated from piano to synthesizer, Clavinet to Rhodes in a floating conversation with the band. Eventually “Ghost” took on an electronic tinge that hinted at the deepest post-hiatus improvisation. This was fueled by Trey’s Hendrix-esque leads with bent tone and pitch into a series of shifting polyrhythmic counterpoints. Expanding until it seemed the room would explode, the music evolved into a funky groove with starts and stops punctuated by the now-roaring crowd.

“Ghost” segues into Talking Heads’ “Cities” which has a really sharp (weird) drum sound.  There a lengthy intro before the song starts properly.  The choruses are really slow (and someone plays a wrong chord).  But the song end with a really groovy solo that encourages people to clap along.

“Cities” started in double-time and shifted effortlessly into normal rhythm for the first chorus and the rest of the song. With the lyrics “a lot of ghosts in a lot of houses”, “Cities” continued the eerie theme of this already-historic performance, blending a smooth, creative vibe with an aggressive, rocking attack. Seemingly on cue, the band dropped out of “Cities” and left Trey to end the song alone with the clapping crowd. The momentary pause after Cities was the first time the band stopped at all, having linked Buried > Bag > Ghost > Cities into a powerful opening sequence for the ages.

“Limb By Limb” is mellow with Trey on guitars.

 “Limb By Limb” followed. Written by Trey on a sequencer with a drum part intended to stump Fish, Limb is always a feat of execution. This performance exhibited an added sense of dynamics no doubt spurred on by the intimate setting, highlighting restrained melodic dialogue among the whole band. While sometimes this jam breathed fire, this groovy interlude danced intricate circles around the glowing embers, leaving space for Fish to lay down some outrageous fills and cymbal work. Trey’s final solo culminated in repeated guitar fanning, which brought the song to a cathartic close.

Then comes “Train Song” and “Roggae” which gets more mellow by the end.

“Train Song” provided a moment of tranquil reflection in the middle of the set. The second-ever live “Roggae” followed, giving a chance to show off more new material in a new country as the band fashioned a coda with so much inherent space that the notes hung slightly suspended between phrases.

The 12 minute “Maze” perks everyone up.  There’s a lengthy keyboard solo followed by a nice solo from Trey.  During Maze the band stopped on a dime to thank the audience (and appreciate the architecture) , then finished the song.  It’s amazing how tight that was.

“Maze” blossomed into an electric improvisation starting with Page’s lively organ solo followed by a cacophonous solo from Trey who shredded unabashedly until the whole band telepathically stopped on a dime for him to say “We hope you’re all having a good time tonight…we just want to say that we really appreciate your support and how much we enjoy playing in Prague here.” Page interjected “We love the architecture” while Trey continued “I don’t think we got a chance to thank you last night so we just thought we’d take this moment to thank you very much.” After a quick countdown, the band re-entered the song in the exact shred-space they’d occupied before the acrobatic stop. After Maze, they closed the first set with Golgi Apparatus that had a rave-up ending with Trey shouting, in an apparent nod to the World Cup Soccer quarterfinals, “Jon Fishman, Jon Fishman, Hey, Ho, Hey, Ho”.

I noticed that “Golgi Apparatus” has a whole series of mess ups—someone is in the wrong key and can’t get free.

Set Two opens with the fast verses of “Julius” and then the slow staccato “Meat.”

Set two began with a swinging “Julius” that got everyone moving and Fishman passionately testifying at the highest peaks. “Julius” led into “Meat,” a new song. “Meat” returned the show to its initial ghoulish theme, confounding the audience with its multiple stops and starts. Immediately after Meat came a soaring, adventurous “Piper.”

“Piper” is 19 minutes long with a scorching solo in the middle.

“Piper” stretched nearly twenty minutes and bumped up against the boundaries already shattered by “Ghost.” Piper sped into a ferocious jam characterized by intense guitar runs … before it settled into hard rock with plenty of room for the whole band to explore. Like the experimental “Ghost” in set one, “Piper” was fearless, building to massive peaks before floating off into a slower, more minimal section accented by loops from Trey and Mike atop Page’s piano and Fish’s cymbal rolls. This part of “Piper” hinted at “Fikus,” part three of the “Ghost” trilogy, becoming slow and funky before locking neatly into the rowdy reggae of “Makisupa Policeman.”

“Makisupa Policeman” is a little goofy and fun. “Petrov” (Page) sings lead vocals. During this song there’s a drum solo and Trey tells the audience that if the solo is long and boring they should just whistle to make him stop.

As he scatted around the lyrics of “Makisupa Policeman,” Trey uttered the key phrase, “stink-kind”, adding a touch of home with “policeman came to Vermont!” He handed things off to Page for a piano solo (calling him “Petrof” after the logo visible on the rented piano) during which Page developed a ska feel. Trey announced a drum solo next, saying if Fish soloed too long the crowd should start whistling, as the band did when he talked too much. Fish played along, rendering a minimal solo of high hat, kick drum and rim shots, returning to the song in the nick of time. After some dancehall-style dub effects, the band finished Makisupa and dove into David Bowie.

The 13 minute “David Bowie” has lengthy washes of guitars and some noisy parts.

A thematic jam hinted subtly at Santana before riding a dissonant wave into the ending changes of the second and final Bowie of the European tour. With scarcely a pause, Page hammered out the opening notes of Loving Cup, cementing the status of this magical night.  it segues into Loving cup a loose jam

“Loving Cup” is a loose, fun version running almost 10 minutes.  There is much cheering at the “I know I play a bad guitar” line.

The encore is “Possum.”  It’s kind of slow and loping but fun.

The band returned for an encore and repaid the rowdy crowd’s enthusiasm with Possum. The audience clapped along for a bit eventually leaving the band to a textbook performance that was at once conscious and passionate, restrained yet explosive. Trey dropped a quick tease of “Stash” as he propelled “Possum” through machine-gun fans entwined with soft, dynamic sections that made this a perfect encore for such an intimate show. As the crowd filtered into the streets of Prague it was clear that this had been an unforgettable night that could only have happened when and where it did.

So there’s two takes on the show.  You can read all of Kevin’s essay here. and I’m going to re-listen to this show to hear the magic foe myself.

[READ: March 6, 2017] The Serpent’s Curse

This is the second full-sized book in the Copernicus series.  After reading the Copernicus Archives book I noted that the event of that book are not referenced in this book, but I was wrong.  There are several mentions to San Francisco.  It’s not a huge gap and you wouldn’t be lost without reading it, but it is odd that he would reference a book that apparently some people don’t read.

This book is pretty large–480 pages.  And I feel like it was kind of slow.  Or perhaps they just spent way too much time in Russia.  Or, and this is most likely the case–they spent the whole book looking for one relic.  And 500 pages is a lot of traveling for one item.

I’m bummed that I felt this way at the end because in the beginning I thought it was really exciting.  And Abbott filled in some things that a nitpicky reader might nitpick about with some interesting new developments.  One of the things that one has to wonder about is how this normal family will be able to jet set around the world.  Well, that comes with the assistance of a best-selling author with millions of dollars at his disposal.  Convenient? Sure.  But it’s a nice development.  The author, Terence Akroyd writes exciting thrillers (so of course he is interested in the plot) and he has a personal vendetta against the bad guys, so he’s happy to help out with money and resources, like his jets and technology. [That author is presumably not based on reality].

Terence also has a son, Julian, who is apparently pretty hot.  But he’s a few years older than our protagonists so presumably nothing will come from that.  Despite all of the potential romance between Wade and Becca in the first book and parts of this one, nothing is progressing on that front. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-Live Phish Downloads 12.7.97 Nutter Center, Dayton, OH (2007).

This concert included five covers out of a total of nineteen songs.

The show opens with a fairly slow “AC/DC Bag,” but there’s a seamless segue into an excellent cover of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer” (only the second time they’d played it).  There’s some spacey sounds in the jam which then segues nicely into ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” a groovy blues.  The whole thing ends in a jaunty bluegrass “My Minds Got a Mind of Its Own.”

I have to admit at this point I’m pretty bummed by the setlist.  The songs are all good and the jams are fun, but if I were at this show I’d want to some actual Phish songs, you know?  I know a lot of people love the covers, but that’s not what I’m here for.

They rectify this with a fun “It’s Ice.”  There’s a lengthy piano solo and then the song segues into two deep cuts from Billy Breathes–a one minute “Swept Away” and then a one minute “Steep”–before closing “It’s Ice.”

Up next is a 10 minute “Theme from the Bottom” with a long solo and great harmonies at the end.  Then the band plays a great funky “Tube,” a non-album track with some great 70s sounding keyboards from Page.  After a pause (apparently the lights went out).  You can hear them chatting a bit and then they pick up a 6 minute instrumental called “Dayton Jam” that plays with the themes from “Tube.”

The set closes with a 12 minute “Slave to the Traffic Light.” There’s a great solo from Trey followed by a mellow section before coming to a good solid end.

Usually there’s a few really lengthy jams in the second set, but this upcoming set is full of mid-length songs.

It opens with a jam-filled 9 minute “Timber” and then a 7 minute “Wolfman’s Brother.”  This segues into yet another cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie on Reggae Woman” before settling into a fast-paced 14 minute “Reba,” the longest song of the night.  The solos in the song remind me a bit of Frank Zappa.  It’s really amazing how tight they are during these jams.

Before they begin the next song, you can hear Trey ask, “Guyute?” and they play a 10 minute jam with a really fun middle section.  The show ends with a 12 minute “Possum.”  So while there are no really super long jams, there are a number of pretty long jams.

The Encore is a great loose version of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”  I love how they handle the end.  The classic chord progression that ends the song is done sort of like that but more just fun noisy chaos.

[READ: March 6, 2017] The Forbidden Stone

I really like Tony Abbott books. He has tackled many different stories and I’ve found that I haven’t been disappointed by anything he’s written.  This series, The Copernicus Legacy is in the vein of The 39 Clues, although there are plenty of differences.  But as an outline, the premise is the same–some kids (and an adult) are trying to save the world from bad guys by collecting a bunch of things that cannot fall into the wrong hands.

Whereas The 39 Clues divides the family into 4 warring clans, this series seems to be basically good guys and bad guys.  The good guys are inspired by Copernicus.  This works out well because the main family loves astronomy.

So the main family is Wade Kaplan and his father Roald Kaplan.  Wade follows in his father’s footsteps and loves the stars and science. Roald is re-married to Sara (who is on a business trip as the book opens).  Sara has a son named Darrell.  Darrell is hip and cool and plays guitar.  He is also always hungry (a trait that Abbott loves to have in at least one character, although I haven’t seen it as being very important yet–and it seems to fade as the book goes on). I assume that Roald is not Darrell’s father as well, but I got a little lost in the family tree.  The crux is that Wade and Darrell are stepbrothers–and they get along really well.  The rest of the crew includes Wade’s cousin Lily and her friend Becca.  Lily is a techie girl who is able to wield a smart phone like a librarian.  And then there’s Becca  who is, interesting. Wade has had a crush on Becca (who is super smart and can speak several languages because her parents traveled so much) for a long time.

Okay, so there’s five people.  How does the excitement start? (more…)

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