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Archive for the ‘ZZ Top’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KING’S X-Live Love in London (2010).

King’s X released their most recent studio album (XV) in 2008.  It’s been over 11 years since that album came out, but King’s X still tours pretty much all of the time.  They could stand to mix up their setlists a bit from time to time, but they still sound quite good.

This concert was recorded on January 22nd, 2009 at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, not long after XV came out.  As such, there’s five songs from that album.  I actually thought that XV was a pretty great record and these songs hold up quite well with the rest of them.

This show starts, as pretty much all shows do since 1998 with “Groove Machine.”  The opening of “Welcome to the Groove Machine” is a pretty terrific way to introduce everyone to the show.  There’s a slightly extended drum solo in the middle of the song, but nothing too crazy.

It’s followed by a new song, “Alright.”  It features some noisy, squeaky guitars from Ty and is really catchy in it’s simplicity: “one day, (one day) it’s gonna be, (it’s gonna be) alright, (alright) alright, (alright).”  It’s a great singalong.

They quickly jump back to a popular older song, the quiet “Pleiades” although Ty’s vocals sound a little rough on it.  Back to the new record with “Move,” a suitably heavy song, although “What is This?” from the debut sounds much heavier.  You can tell that the band has played this song a lot because dUg is taking liberties with the lyrics: “make you look so fucking foolish.”  And lots of screaming.  Ty’s guitar solo is pretty epic.

Then they play two songs in a row from the King’s X album.  Up first is the quieter, grooving “Lost in Germany.”  Then comes the hugely popular “Black Flag.”

There’s a slightly lengthy bass intro as the band sets up for the new, absolutely rocking song “Pray,” in which dUg once again grapples with religion.  This is another great chanting sing along.

The crowd is excited for the older hit “Dogman” with some more noisy guitars from Ty.  dUg also makes his first reference to pot: after the line “give me a skinny or give me a fat,” he says “I smoke em fat.”

Then there’s two new songs in a row, yet another great sing-along” Go Tell Somebody.”  It’s a rollicking song that sums up the King’s X ethos pretty well: “if you like what you hear, go tell somebody.”  It leads into the quieter, Jerry Gaskill-sung “Julie” a nice song to his wife.  That’s it for new songs as they head back to older albums from here on out.

The first one is the only song from Ear Candy, the rocking “Looking for Love.”  It’s interesting when Ty plays his solo how much the rest of the sound goes away–its just bass and drums while Ty totally wails–a rather long solo for a 4 minute song.  The crowd goes crazy for “Summerland” and you can hear them all singing along to the final verse including the slight pause before it resumes.  The crowd is incredibly important at a King;s X show and it is a bit of a shame that the crowd is mixed out of this recording (I assume it’s a sound board and therefore hard to include the crowd).  But it’s really great to hear them sing along.  Apparently there is also a lot of chanting and such that is edited out for the CD, which makes sense, but is a bit of a bummer if you want to really capture the energy of the show.  At one point dUg even says, “I’ve been listening to you sing all night and its alright.”

They end the set with a rousing 12 minute “Over My Head.”  The extended part comes in the middle, of course.  The song slows down, the crowd starts clapping, and Ty plays a really impressive solo–just wailing around for almost 3 minutes.  Then it’s dUg’s turn.  “Welcome to the first church of rock n roll.”  He talks about the importance of music, “Music got me through a lot of hard times.”  In almost every show he tells a different anecdote.  This time he says, “My aunt told me … its a terrible thing for a man to do the thing he don’t wanna do for the rest of his life.  I decided I’m gonna make fucking music.”  The audience then sings the chorus pretty much through to the end of the song.

Then it’s time for the encore.  (The encore breaks are not evident on the CD).

dUg says, “This is gonna be a long encore.”  It starts with two songs from Faith Hope Love.  “It’s Love” was probably their biggest hit.  The song sounds great, although truthfully their impeccable harmonies sound a little tired here.   It segues perfectly in to “We Were Born to Be Loved” one of the great show enders.  This version runs to about six minutes with some extended moments and that awesomely complex ending sequence.

They come back out for encore 2 and play the lovely “Goldilox.”  The big difference this time is that the crowd sings the entire song!  Quite well, in fact.  dUg doesn’t sing anything and Ty only plays loud between verses.  It’s pretty cool.  They stay with the debut album for one more song, “Visions” which returns to the heaviness but keeps the harmonies.  The end part really takes off with some wild soloing from Ty as dUg and Jerry jam out together.  It’s a wonderfully wild ending and seems like it could easily end the show.  But the band isn’t quite done yet.

There’s one more encore break before they come back with the wild “Moanjam.”  The harmonies seem to have completely lost them by this time, but musically the song is outstanding.  Just a terrific jam that rocks out.

King’s X is a fantastic live band.  And, yes, they are getting older and don’t sound as amazing as they once did, but the energy and musicianship is still top-notch, even almost ten years after this release.

[READ: February 2019] King’s X: The Oral History

Even though I love music, I don’t read a ton of books about musicians.  I kind of don’t care all that much about most of them.  I want to see and hear you play, but I don’t have that much curiosity about your history.

But some bands defy the tropes of rock, and their story can often be interesting.

I’ve been a fan of King’s X for decades and while I knew some things about them, it turns out I didn’t really know all that much.  And it was fun to read this book which is constructed of quotes from the band and the people who were around them.

Most of the people interviewed are huge fans of the band and can’t understand why they were never more successful (a common question).  I also had no idea there was such acrimony between the band and their original unofficial fourth member, Sam Taylor (who does not make an appearance in the book).

Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was to find out that Doug (dUg) Pinnick is 68 years old! That certainly explains why his voice doesn’t sound superlative live anymore.  And fair play to him.  He sounds amazing for 68.  He is otherwise ageless, that guy.  dUg had a pretty rough upbringing–and he didn’t get a bass until he was 23!

Jerry Gaskill has had two heart attacks (!) and is from South NJ (and now lives near Asbury Park–wow, imagine running into him).  He started a band with his dad and his brother when he was 7 years old (Jerry & The Knights).  And they played out at weddings and parties.  How fun is that?

Ty Tabor is the baby at 58. Ty learned guitar from a babysitter and has been playing ever since.  He and others keep referring to Phil Keaggy.  I had never heard of him and was surprised at Ty’s reverence.  Well, Keaggy is an adult Christian musician so clearly I’d never have heard of him.  I listened to a track or two but just couldn’t get past the Christianness of it to really appreciate the music. (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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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Slip Stitch and Pass (1997).

After two more studio albums, Phish released their second live album, Slip Stitch and Pass. Unlike the previous live album, this one comes all from one show, although it is not the entire show.  The recording was done at the Markthalle Hamburg in Hamburg, Germany, during Phish’s 1997 European Tour.

This was release on one disc and it sounds brighter than their other live shows.

What I always found strange about this releases is that three of the nine songs are covers.  Obviously, covers are a part of Phish shows, but it seems weird that their second live album is so full of covers, especially when they have now 7 albums to choose from.

The show opens with a rocking cover of Talking Heads’ “Cities” and segues into “Wolfman’s Brother” which has some great funky bass from Mike.  The song slows into a mellow jam of ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago.”  Its slow and groovy, a nice contrast to the other songs.

I love Weigh and am delighted that they played this fun, very silly song: “I’d like to cut your head off so I could weigh it, what do ya say?
Five pounds, six, pounds, seven pounds.”  It leads into a great Jam of “Mikes Song” (one I’ve really wanted to see live but haven’t yet).  After a fun, suitably short “Lawn Boy” they start playing the fun that is “Weekapuag Groove.”  This version teases a bunch of other songs, like: Pink Floyd’s “Careful with That Axe, Eugene,” Rolling Stone’s “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and The Doors song “The End.”  They have a lot of fun with The Doors with Fish shouting: “he walked on down the hall” and Trey saying, “Father….   Mother I want to cook you breakfast.”

The jam ends with a very quiet a capella rendition of “Hello My Baby”—it’s a little too quiet for the disc, but their harmonies sound great

The disc ends with “Taste,” a mellow jam with multiple singers. It’s a nice ending to the disc.

The full concert setlist was:

SET 1: Cities > The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony, Down with Disease, Weigh, Beauty of My Dreams, Wolfman’s Brother -> Jesus Just Left Chicago , Reba, Hello My Baby, Possum

SET 2: Carini, Dinner and a Movie > Mike’s Song -> Lawn Boy > Weekapaug Groove, The Mango Song > Billy Breathes, Theme From the Bottom

ENCORE: Taste, Sweet Adeline

[READ: March 21, 2017] “Oil and Vinegar”

I’ve read a few things by Gray, and they have all been short.  This one is also short.  She really gets right to the point with her stories, and I rather like that.

It begins by telling us that Lissa looked forward to her bath every night.  She had recently discovered the trick of putting a few drops of olive oil into her bath.  She loved it so much that she would disrobe as soon as she got into her house.

Lissa was a shower person–never liked baths at all.  She also never cooked.  She  was decluttering her kitchen and was planning on throwing out the bottle of olive oil.  But she decided to give that suggestion from the magazines a try–a few drops in a bath.  It proved to be a luxurious experience, and she was hooked.

She went on this way for months and expanded upon the routine–a  book, some candles, wine.  It was wonderful.

And then she spilled some extra oil in the bath.  If a few drops made her feel good, more was even better.  A quarter cup healed the calloused ridges on her feet and cured the raw skin on her lower back.  The cleanup was kind of a pain, but it was worth it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Quilted Bear, Banff, Alberta (February 11, 1997).

I am quite surprised that the Rheostatics Live site doesn’t make a bigger deal about this show, given its unique nature.  This is an acoustic show that sounds like it was played in front of ten people and a lot of beer.

The shows seems to have started with the second song (at least the way Dave introduces it).  But the first track is a romping acoustic “Record Body Count” (sound check? or maybe just put out of place?).  Whatever, it sounds great with some electric guitar squeals but mostly just folk style with lots of backing singers).

The show proper starts with Dave introducing “an Ontario drinking song.”  There’s lots of shushing as people keep talking over him (although those people might be Tim an Martin).  Dave says, “a drinking song, there’s got to be some drunks talking.”.  Dave tells the story behind the sons and then they launch into a spirited rendition of Stompin’ Tom Connor’s “Midnight Ride of Red Dog Ray.”

Next comes “Christopher.”  It’s hard to believe they used this version for Double Live because it is so imperfect.  Martin coughs in the beginning and his voice cracks a bit.  But it sounds great and is a wonderfully unique version, especially for the live record.

It’s followed by a folksy rendition of “Chanson les Ruelles.”  Although Tim is too quiet.  mid song, you can hear someone in the crowd says “is it in French?  Yea!”  The version of “Wendell Clark” that comes next is only the second part.  But it is stompin and rompin (with someone yelling “yeeeha”).  At the end someone shouts Wendell broke his back.  “He didn’t really break it.”  “Well, he hurt it.”

Someone shouts for “Palomar” (or “Alomar” that seems less likely).  But they play “Take Me in Your Hand” instead.  It is also a folkie version and the end features a percussion addition of wood blocks.

Dave shouts “Hey, Mike, you wanna do Noah’s Cage?”  I have to assume this is Mike O’Neill from The Inbreds (the song is an Inbreds song).  They play the song although Mike forgets the second verse so he repeats the first.   He says its been a while since he played it.

Martin introduces “Introducing Happiness: as “this is a song about being happy.”  Dave says, “I hope so.”  It’s followed by a surprising acoustic version of “P.R.O.D.”  Surprising only because the song tends to get noisy and out of control, but it’s not in this version.  Towards the end, Dave shouts “all percussion solo–whatever you got.”

Martin busts into the melody of “Dope Fiends” but instead they play a long funny version of “Desert Island Discs.”

Dave: AC/DC-Back in Black; Ramones-Rocket to Russia; Martha and the Muffins-Danseparc.
Tim: The Inbreds-Hilario; The Inbreds-Kombinator ; The Inbreds-It’s Sydney or the Bush.
Donny: Randy Newman-Creates Something New Under the Sun; Grace Jones-Nightclubbing; Herbet von Karajan conducts Beethoven’s… “Last Waltz?” (Dave: could you believe he said the classical one?)
An audience member: Kiss-Dressed to Kill;  The Beatles White Album, and… someone says Billy Idol-White Wedding.  Dave: Billy idol?  Gigs over.  And a later line: I’m going to get me to an island not with that guy though, he wants to bring Billy Idol. I don’t even think White Wedding’s the name of the album (it’s not)–although the fans argue the point).
One last guy: Pink Floyd-The Wall; Led Zeppelin-IV… how many picks? How many picks!?)  ZZ Top-Degüello.

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is sung my Tim, Dave sings “I wish I was back home in Derry” at the appropriate moments.

They end with a piano-based version of “Jesus was Once a Teenager Too.”  He has to start again (“it’s just that that thing fell over”), but when he does it sounds really good–very different.

What a fun show to have been at.  There’s a lot of interaction with the band and fans–I really wonder how many people were there.

[READ: April 3, 2017] “Girlfriend on Mars” 

This story is probably my favorite Lucky Peach story (even if it had nothing to do with food).  Although the end seemed to maybe spiral out of control a little bit–with a finale that was, possibly, a little trite (although, not exactly).

This plot is simple.  Amber Kevinn, the narrator’s girlfriend is going to Mars.  Well, maybe.  She has (unbeknownst to Kevin) entered a reality show contest in which two winners will be selected to travel to Mars on MarsNow.  They will live on Mars until they die–no hope for returning.  This story intersperses the contest with just how Amber’s boyfriend feels about the whole thing.

Amber and Kevin are drug dealers.  Well, not exactly–they sell drugs, but only to family and friends.  They grow them hydroponically–this skill with plants was one of the reasons she was accepted for Mars in the first place.  But why didn’t she say anything to her boyfriend (of twelve years!) until it got to this point?

She made a video, she sent in an essay she even met with the TV people–all without him knowing.  Of course, Kevin’s a pretty heavy stoner at this point so he doesn’t notice much. (more…)

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armadaSOUNDTRACK: RAID THE ARCADE PLAYLIST (2015).

raidIt should come as no surprise that Cline’s media campaign would include a Spotify “Raid the Arcade” playlist.  A playlist of the mixtape that the protagonist’s father made when he was a teen.

And I can pretty much see how this would have been a very satisfying mixtape for killing aliens and generally rocking out.  Of course, I had to have a listen and add my thoughts.

Side A: Track:

  1. One Vision – Queen (I was never a big Queen fan, particularly their later poppier stuff)
  2. Crazy Train – Ozzy (A classic, of course)
  3. Chase the Ace – AC/DC (I find it odd that the two AC/DC songs are instrumentals from the Maximum Overdrive soundtrack.  It makes sense given the guy who made them, but there’s so many better AC/DC songs)
  4. Hair of the Dog – Nazareth (One of my favorite classic rockers)
  5. Get it On – Power Station (I really hate Power Station a lot, and this version of an already pretty stupid song song is pretty dreadful)
  6. Old Enough to Rock and Roll – Rainey Haynes (I didn’t know this song.  It comes from the Iron Eagle soundtrack.  This song is not on Spotify and I imagine that’s because it’s terrible)
  7. Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins (This song is such a punch line that even if I did like it I’m not sure I could take it seriously)
  8. Vital Signs – Rush (I was totally psyched that he chose this Rush song)
  9. Barracuda – Heart (I’ve mixed feelings about Heart, but I do like this song a lot)
  10. T.N.T. – AC/DC (Now this is more like it for AC/DC songs–not an overplayed one either)
  11. You Really Got Me – Van Halen (Not my favorite Van Halen song, but a good rocker)
  12. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen (I loved this song when it came out.  It holds up pretty well (there’s some interesting sound effects in the background, but it’s nowhere near as good as the songs below)
  13. One of These Days – Pink Floyd (I love this song but never would have considered it particularly rocking–in the way these other songs are.  But it does rather work)
  14. Top Gun Anthem – Harold Faltermeyer (seriously?  Well, I guess if you like piloting video games, this makes sense.)

Side B: Track:

  1. I Hate Myself for Loving You – Joan Jett (I don’t care for this song, although the guitars sound good for the mix)
  2. It Takes Two – Rob Base (I’m surprised and pleased that this song made it into what is basically a metal compilation.  I never would have had such diversity at that age.  Although I got really sick of this song in college.)
  3. Hammer to Fall – Queen (I don’t really like this era of Queen)
  4. Twilight Zone – Golden Earring (I don’t love this song, but it is cool to hear once in a while)
  5. We’re Not Going to Take It – Twisted Sister (I loved TS back in the day, although I wince at them now. If this song wasn’t overplayed I could probably really get into it.)
  6. Rock You Like A Hurricane – Scorpions (I loved the Scorpions back in the day too. I certainly tapped my foot along to this one.)
  7. Black Betty – Ram Jam (This song is in a Rayman video game that Clark plays and while I think the song is really dumb, it certainly rocks.)
  8. D.T. – AC/DC (see above for instrumental AC/DC)
  9. Delirious – ZZ Top (I never got into ZZ Top, and while I do like some late 70s ZZ, I really don’t like mid 80s ZZ)
  10. Iron Eagle – King Kobra (Wow, this was obscure even to me–more pop metal from Iron Eagle)
  11. Run’s House – Run-DMC (Whose house?  It’s funny how stripped bare Run-DMC songs sound compared to contemporary rap.)
  12. We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions –Queen (overplayed but classic)

Bonus Track: Snoopy versus the Red Baron – The Red Guardsmen (a goof y novelty song that I think overstays its welcome.)

So I guess my verdict is that I really don’t like the Raid the Arcade mix all that much.  That’s kind of a shocker, actually.

[READ: July 31, 2015] Armada

I loved Cline’s first book Ready Player One.  And Sarah and I were understandably excited about his latest book, Armada.  I was surprised about the content of the book which is of similar plot to the new movie Pixels (I say similar based on what little I know of Pixels–that video game characters attack the earth).  This is surprising to me because Cline has already sold the rights of this book to Spielberg–and I have a  hard time believing someone would try to cut Spielberg with an idea.

Of course, Armada is rather different from Pixels in that the characters that attack the earth are not classic 80s video game characters.  Indeed, there is a whole back story that shows how very different these two premises are.

In a recent interview, Cline talked about how you have to include all the pop culture sci-fi and video games in his book because there’s no way you should be able to make a sci-fi book or movie on earth and not reference all of the pop culture that the protagonist grew up with.  So this story is not set in a vacuum.  In fact, it the pop culture establishes the plot.

Zack Lightman is a senior in high school.  He’s had a pretty crappy life.  His father was killed in a sanitation explosion when Zack was just a month old.  The death set him and his mom up for life, but he has spent his whole life immersed in his father’s life (he is close to his father’s age when his father died).  Zack has a lot of his father’s effects.  His dad was a huge gamer, spending a lot of time at the arcade, and loving all things sci-fi and fantasy.  His father would have been born around 1970, making the pop culture references perfect for those of us around the same age.

One day, while looking out the window of school, Zack sees an alien ship.  But not just a generic cigar shaped UFO.  Rather this is a ship directly from his favorite videogame, Armada.  Zack plays this game pretty much every day. In fact, he is ranked sixth in the world as a pilot protecting the earth from alien invaders.  Naturally he assumes he has gone insane–especially since no one else has seen it. (more…)

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curesSOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Billy Breathes (1996).

billyBilly Breathes is a much more mellow, acoustic feeling album from Phish.

Although the opener “Free” is a great song, with wonderful riffs.  It’s another of my favorites live, although the production sounds a little flat here, but the harmonies are great.  “Character Zero” again has a real ZZ Top feel (something many don’t really associate with Phish I’m sure).  But once the song proper kicks in, it rocks in a very Phish way.  “Waste” is a delicate song about insecurities that turns into a nice love song.  “Taste” is a rollicking piano-heavy song that gets played live pretty often and it sounds good here.

“Cars Trucks Buses” is a 2 minute instrumental that has a lot of organ in it, it’s very groovy.  “Talk” is an acoustic guitar/folky song.  You don’t hear it much live.  “Theme from the Bottom” gets us back into often-played territory, with its weird opening riff.  I really enjoy the way the bridge goes into a brief minor key, despite the overall happy vibe.  I like the harmonies towards the end, although the actual end of the song is a bit dull (the live endings are a bit more fun).

From here the album mellows out a lot.  “Train Song” is a pretty acoustic number with nice harmonies.  “Bliss” is an acoustic guitar solo.  “Billy Breathes” has more delicate harmonies and an acoustic feel.  “Sept Away” is another delicate short (90 second) song, with some more great harmonies. “Steep” is a slow, simple song (also 90 seconds) that has a pretty melody but serves more as an introduction to “Prince Caspian.”   “Prince Caspian” is a great epic-seeming song (even though it’s only 5 minutes long).  The build up is long , with the pretty chords repeating and growing fuller.  It’s a great live song and a great ending to this disc.

Although this disc has some great songs on it, it’s definitely not my favorite overall.

[READ: October 4, 2013] The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira

This was another weird and fun book by César Aira (one of about six books he wrote that year). This one was translated by Kathleen Silver.  Ever since reading that Aira doesn’t edit his books—that he simply begins writing and lets the story keep coming out–I’ve grown suspicious of the beginnings of his stories. And so I am with this one. In the beginning there’s a whole thing about Dr Aira sleepwalking through a town.  He wakes up in various places, unsure where he is, but he’s never lost because he knows the streets so well.  This goes on for a few pages and then the plot kicks in.

Dr Aira is picked up by an ambulance—a man is dying right there in the ambulance and only Dr. Aira can save him.  Won’t Dr Aira help him? The Dr. refuses point blank.  He is convinced that this whole thing is a set up—why else would the ambulance (which he had heard for many blocks going up and down the street) be driving around with a sick man looking just for him instead of going to the hospital?  He will not help this man.  Disgusted, the ambulance driver pulls over and the Dr gets out.

So what is all this about? (more…)

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ornerSOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Hoist (1994).

hoistI always think of Hoist as a kind of goofy album because of the way they are dressed on it (and the crazy cover).  But it is absolutely not.  Indeed, opener “Julius” sounds like a ZZ Top song.  In fact, every time they’ve played it live I assumed it was a cover.  It is less restrained in the live setting, because this version has more acoustic guitar.  There’s even backing vocalists and horns.  “Down with Disease” has that great watery bass, but the song (which sounds good) here is a little stiffer than the live version.  It also has something of an R&B feel (with backing vocals) even if the guitar is certainly not R&B at all.  It bleeds right into “If I Could” a pretty harmony-voiced mellow song.  The big surprise comes from the Alison Krauss vocals–she gets a solitary line or two and then harmonies.  The song is very pretty but the strings are overkill.

“Riker’s Mailbox” is indeed a reference to the Star Trek character, although the 30 second burst of noise is pretty hard to explain. Nevertheless, the trombone is played Mr Riker himself, Jonathan Frakes.  It jumps into the rocking “Axilla, Pt. 2” which is usually a little faster live (I like the sloppier crazier live version better). There’s some vulgar dialogue in the middle of the song.

“Lifeboy” is a mellow acoustic song that builds from just guitar.  Lyrically it’s interesting: “God never listens to what I say…and you don’t get a refund if you overpray.”  It folds into “Sample in a Jar,” which is just as good here as any live set.  “Wolfman’s Brother” ahs horns thrown on top and some interesting sound effects.  Although overall l don’t like this version nearly as much—I don’t care for the horns or the backing vocals plus in the live version they emphasize the bruh of brother more which is cooler.  (Although I do enjoy the weird “Shirley Temple” line at the end).  “Scent of  Mule” opens so strangely with crazy guitars and a thundering drum.  The singing is very silly (with silly voices) and has a very twangy style (complete with banjo and yeehah).

“Dog Faced Boy” is a sweet (but weird) acoustic guitar number.  “Demand” is a ten minute song which I don’t really know at all.  It has a strange, staccato style riff.  At 2 minutes in, a car starts and after a commercial on the radio the driver pops in “Split Open and Melt” (a nod to “Detroit Rock City,” perhaps?).  This goes on until 9:30 at which time there’s a car crash and choir of angels (sick!).

I don’t car for the horns and R&B flavoring of this album, but the song selection is really quite good.

[READ: September 24, 2013] Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge

I read about this book in Tom Bissell’s reviews recently.  He really made it sound like an interesting book.  So when I saw that we had just received a copy, I grabbed it and brought it home for the weekend.

There are 52 short stories in the short book (which is less than 200 pages).  Some of the stories are very short (1 page) with a few coming in at 5 or 6.  The 1 page stories are like flash fiction but they seem to be more of snapshots than actual full stories and they seem like they might be diary entries or something. The fact that a number of them are italicized with dates at the end make them seem like a selection from the same person rather than individual stories.

The stories are set all over the world, although they tend to focus on Chicago and Boston.  They are pretty universally dark with themes of death and loss permeating the collection.  And yet despite their overall negative feeling, the stories aren’t really depressing, exactly.  Bissell described the narrators as like someone telling a story about someone telling a story.  And that is true and that distance seems to take some of the edge off the stories.

But what’s impressive is the consistently strong and powerful writing.  The way that Orner is able to convey so much with such few words.  Some stories are just a scene, others are a whole lifetime.  But either way they are all really gripping.

I wasn’t going to write about each story, but it would have nagged at me if I didn’t, so here’s a few words about 52 stories. (more…)

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