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Archive for the ‘War’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JULIEN BAKER-Tiny Desk Concert #687 (January 10, 2018).

Julien Baker joins a handful of artists who have now made a second appearance at a Tiny Desk Concert.  (If they start inviting artists back regularly, they’ll never get ANY work done at the NPR offices).

I was quite enamored with Baker when I watched her first Tiny Desk Concert.  And I was totally smitten with her when I saw her open for The Decemberists.

Julien plays three songs here.  I’m intrigued that in the blurb Bob says “I reached out to ask if she would be willing to do something different this time around.”

It makes it sound as if she’s going to do some kind of dance/electronica show.  But I guess the difference is that last time, she just played electric guitar and this time she mixes up instrumentation and adds a violinist.

The first two songs, “Hurt Less” and “Even,” were accompanied by Camille Faulkner, with Julien on piano for the opening tune and acoustic guitar on the second.

If Julien Baker sounds delicate with just her electric guitar, she’s twice as delicate on piano.  But her voice sounds exquisite–powerful, honest and a little raspy, adding a slight edge.

I love seeing her sticker-covered acoustic guitar as she sings on “Even”:

Putting my fist through the plaster in the bathroom of a Motel 6 / I must have pictured it all a thousand times / I swear to God I think I’m gonna die / I know you were right / I can’t be fixed, so help me

She tends to play her guitar a little louder than the piano, so this one is a bit more dynamic.  The violin adds some aching sounds over the top.

I love that she plays each song in a very different style:

For the final song, Julien put together an arrangement of “Appointments” that begins on electric guitar, which then was looped as a backdrop to her on piano and voice.

It’s always fun watching someone loop guitar melodies.  And I like that she continues to loop long after it seems like the looping is done.  This allows for some of her gorgeous ringing chords.  They continue to ring out as she plays the piano.  It’s even cooler that she can stop parts of the guitar looping while she is completing the song.

All along her voice, which seems so delicate when she starts proves to be really powerful, especially during “Appointments” when she builds to a powerful high.    When I saw her live, she held a really long note that was quite impressive.  Don’t be fooled by the quietness of her music, Julien Baker rocks.

[READ: October 27,2017] Threads of Blue

This is the sequel to Beautiful Blue World, a book I really enjoyed.

In the first book, Mathilde’s country of Sofarende was being attacked by Tyssia.  She was sent to a special location to work on the war effort–they needed precocious children and she was picked for her empathy.  As the book ended, Mathilde followed her empathy and, while their encampment was under siege, released a teenaged prisoner of war because she felt that he was a good person who was just caught up in the war.

This act caused her to leave her group (and her best friend Megs) and to miss the conveyance to safety.

As this book opens, Mathilde wakes up on a boat that is bringing her to the country of Eilean.  She has secret documents and an order to be secretive.

The book picks up right where the previous one left off (I could have used a slight refresher, honestly). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS FORSYTH & THE SOLAR MOTEL BAND-Dreaming in the Non-Dream (2017).

I was anticipating watching Forsyth at the end of last year but the show sold out on me.  (Note: he is playing nearby this Friday).

I heard about him from a stellar Tiny Desk Concert and was totally psyched to hear this four-song full length album.

The disc opens with the 11 minute History & Science-Fiction that starts with a slow bass line and lots of percussion.  After a short intro the guitar comes in with whammy bar’d chords.  It resolves into a really catchy “chorus” and then a slow down that reminds me of a softer “Marquee Moon.”  But instead of turning into a rocking solo section, it totally mellows out, with keyboards and cymbals and a pretty guitar melody.  It slowly builds out of that by switching from organ to sax.

“Have We Mistaken the Bottle for the Whiskey Inside” is the only song with words.  Of the four it’s my least favorite, but that’s only because I like his guitar playing better than his singing.  It’s a fairly simple riff–kind of Crazy Horse-ish with Forsyth’s deep spoken-singing asking the title question.  After about 3 and a half minutes, the song starts to pick up speed and turns into a huge freak out of noise and chaos. 
“Dreaming in the Non-Dream” begins as a simple picked guitar line repeating.  Throw in some a steady drum beat and some buzzy synths and the song starts to build. And then Forsyth’s soloing makes an appearance.  At first he is just playing harmony notes alongside the lower notes but at the 2 minute mark, the full throttle wah-wah guitar soloing takes off (the backing guitar also throws in some cool wah-wah, too).  And the song runs as a full instrumental for over 15 glorious minutes.  But it is not just a 15 minute guitar solo.  The whole band gets involved–the rest of the band is fully present and there’s a synth solo.  But it’s all within that catchy melody line.  Fifteen minutes never went by so fast.
 “Two Minutes Love” is a beautiful two-minute song.  Gentle guitars interweaving over lush bass lines and twining with the other guitar.  It’s a nice delicate end to that spiraling CD.

[READ: December 27, 2017] Obama: An Intimate Portrait

Sarah got me this book for Christmas and it is awesome.  I wanted to spend 2018 looking forward, getting past the dumpster fire of 2017 and hoping we can move past what we are bogged down with.  #ITMFA #RESIST

But this book was just an amazing look back and something that gives me hope that we can move forward past what we have now.

Pete Souza is a tremendous photographer and this collection offers amazing access to a President who was full of gravitas and thoughtfulness.

We were concerned that reading this would be too depressing given the State of our country and the Embarrassment in Chief.  And in some ways it was depressing.  But in many ways it was what it was intended to be: inspirational.

It’s hard to believe that before our Chief Idiot was bumbling his way through life and giving literally zero thought to anything except his own ego, we as a country had 8 years of a leader who, these pictures show, put serious thought and concern into (almost) everything he did.  Obama was never quick to do anything–he was often mocked for his slow speech patterns–but this is a job where rushing to judgment never does anyone any good.  And you can see the pressures of the world weighing on him.

But this book is not all about pressure.  There are delightful moments of joy–with his daughters, with delightful citizens, with staff and of course with Michele. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ESQUIVEL-Merry X-mas From the Space-Age Bachelor Pad (1996).

Esquivel was a master of the Space-Age Lounge/jazz music.  He combined groovy chill lounge music but he added zipping steel guitar sounds and backing vocals like “Zoo zoop!  Pow!”

And of course, his records were mixed as stereo masterpieces for kick ass hi-fi equipment.  He flourished in the late 50s but had a resurgence in the 1990s, when this collection was released.  All of these songs were recorded in the late 1950s.

Esquivel himself doesn’t sing on these tracks (he does provide the spoken intro (with music by Combustible Edison)) on a terrific “Jingle Bells” (zoo zoo zwee).  The rest of the songs feel delightfully loungey with fun accents from the insturmets and vocals.  Xylophones, keybaords and great use of strings.

It feels cheesey, and it kind of is, but the musicianship and experimentation are very cool.  This is great addition to anyone’s Christmas collection.  Sprinkle a few of these songs into a mix and see if people zu zu zoom along.

Jingle Bells
White Christmas
Here Comes Santa Claus
Parade of the Wooden Soldiers
The Christmas Song
Frosty the Snowman
Snowfall
Sun Valley Ski Run
Blue Christmas
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
Auld Lang Syne (Adios from Esquivel!)

[READ: December 19, 2017] “The Friend”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection. (more…)

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nameless

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 10 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 17, 2005).

This was the 10th and final night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.   And their final show on the Rheostatic site before the “final” shows in 2007.

Great guest moments including Anthony Fragomeni reprising his Drumstein character from Dave Reid’s Centennial High School Production, Selina Martin and Jenn Foster guesting on I Dig Music/PROD, Robin Lowe taking another shot at Sweet, Rich, Beautiful and Mine due to issues with Martin’s Rig on Guest Vocalist night, Ida Nelson and Tim performing Listening, Kaitlyn and Nevil guesting on the Pogues Fairytale of New York and an awesome version of Powderfinger wedged inside Feed Yourself. Great show to end the final edition of the Fall Nationals.

The show opens with “a folk song for all you drinkers here at the hustling Horseshoe Hotel”  It’s a big friendly welcome that introduces the band as well.     Martin: As the song says, “Welcome.  Things have been pretty hairy the last few nights.”

As they start “Northern Wish,” Dave says, “Hey, who is that guy.  You’re not in our band.  Someone call security.”  It sounds great. Then Ford starts playing the “Everyday People” chords.  They sing the song and fun and then Tim segues his bass line perfectly into “It’s Easy To Be With You.”

There’s a very nice “Introducing Happiness.”  Ron Koop from Peep Show comes out, “He’s been our knight in shining armour.”

During “Queer,” Ford gets a lengthy piano solo which suddenly changes to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Alberta Bound” (send this one out to Dutch)

Up comes Ms. Robin Lowe, she’s been selling you shit for the last ten days.  There’s some talk about Roger Clemens.  Martin “What?”  Robin: “The Astros.  Baseball.”  This leads to a discussion about the Italians on the Moon.  Dave: “The Italians wouldn’t go to the moon because it’s just too far from home, from mama’s kitchen.  Unless mom could go too and lay out his spaceman clothes on his space bed.”  Martins mom is there tonight.  “So no cussing, Martin.”

“There’s no swearing in this one.”  On “Sweet, Rich, Beautiful, Mine” Robin makes up for the problem the other night and does a great job–such high notes!  The only thing I miss in the song is when Martin’s guitar soars at that one mention of “rich.”

Martin then says “This is Ford’s set list.  I wrote this song when I was a teenager.  And I think the last time we played it i was still one.”  For the line: “And mother said [Mike: tonight] lying’s wrong.”  Martin: “I like that song.  I forgot about it.”  Ford: “It got played last year. I didn’t think it would be such a big deal.”

Selina Martin and Jennifer Foster come out for “I Dig Music.” Ford: “now there are beautiful women, who knows what will happen next.   They sing backing vocals but not very noticeably.  Mid song, Dave notes: “we defer to the velvet fog or in this case the Polish fog.”  (MPW’s vocal about “Senor Slime.”  They get really insane by the end with everyone screaming “jazz animal.”  Dave says with just a little bit of hard rock thrown in there.  It turns into “P.R.O.D.”  Ford plays the horn.  Dace: “That’s a big horn. What hardcore needs is more French horn.”  Tim is called on for a bass solo, but it’s the wrong bass. “Shall we pause while Tim puts on the right bass.”

It’s our last night so we feel required to walk the tightrope–always on the edge of trying too hard.

Send this out to George Collins: “Making Progress.”  At the end Tim says, “That’s for Lisa.”  Dave: “No I already dedicated it to George.”

Ford plays a long wavery weird keyboard note as a transition to “Who Is This Man And Why Is He Laughing?”

Dave says “On Wednesday we did Whale Music and we brought some songs out of the woodshed and here’s one of them in case you missed it.”  It’s a nice version of “Who?”   Tim: That was definitely from my They Might Be Giants phase [I can hear that].

But it takes a bit to start because Michael’s having a pee.  Every time he plays that red guitar he has to pee.

Martin says “We’re gonna tighten up the space between songs from here on.”
Dave: “That was peeing problem.”
Martin: “I’ve noticed as a general trend.  It’s not a gabby night.  Last night was a gabby night.”
Tim: “incontinence was a trend.”
Mike: “Tim is one of those toque guys who when he takes it off you think male pattern baldness but then he peels it off and he’s got lustrous hair.”
Dave: “hair pride, hair shame, hair shame, hair pride.”
Tim: “You guys are talking not rocking.”

I Am Drumstein.  Anthony Fragomeni (formerly Anthony until he went to jazz college, now he’s Tony).  He was the lead of Centennial High School’s Story of Harmelodia.  Tim says it was a career highlight seeing that.   Tony adds personalized notes about the band in the lyrics and they really rock the end.

MPW plays a drum fill through the end–I just did that because I blew the ending and I thought I’d do an interesting beat to a new song.
Tim: “That drum part reeked of cover up.”
Mike: “You’re right.  Me and Karl Rove.”

After a pause.  Mike says, “Let’s do something sprawling and epic.”
Martin: “Almost as sprawling and epic as the space between songs.”

Martin introduces “CCYPA” as “this is a little blues number I wrote to sell chicken wings.”  Mid song Tim advises, “Remember they call it conservative but it’s still spelled Reform.  They’re like wolves in dogs’ clothing.”  Dave: “Stephen Harper eats babies.  You can see it in his eyes.  He takes off his face and there’s a  lizard face.”  Mike: “He went to France to get dead eye transplants.”  Tim: “And under the face of the lizard is the face of a Reform party member.”
By this time, they’re down to just a few bass notes playing.  “If Tim stops, are we still inside the song?”

Mike asks Martin if mid-song patter is okay, and Martin says, “yeah, I’m enjoying this.”

This next song is also brought to you by Ford Pier (Mike: and his incessant caterwauling).  They play a fun “Triangles On The Walls” and Martin modifies a line to: “her name was Satan, but I guess she called herself that for her own protection because she was perfectly nice.”  It’s followed by a very nice “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”

Up next is a surprise cover of “Fairytale of New York” sung by Kaitlyn and Nevil (“and we’re both wearing matching outfits tonight.”  Nevil does a great Shane/Tom Waits style.  Kaitlyn is less impressive.  After the first verse, no one does the penny whistle fast part, but that doesn’t stop them. They kind of fight their way through the song and it’s overall pretty okay.

There’s a really intense “Feed Yourself” with Dave singing/screaming “I wanna see her face” and getting really creepy: “open up the grave.”  They play a decent “Powderfinger” in the middle of the song and then come back to finish it.”   We’ll stay in the suburbs for this next song: “Stolen Car.”

Dave thanks everyone for the privilege of playing for them “It gives us lots of fuel for the future.”  (Rats)

The end of “Song Of The Garden” is just insane with Dave freaking out and screaming about the beauty of Harmelodia.  But as the song ends, Mike won’t stop his insane drumming and Martin is making all kid of feedback noises.  Dave even tries to get everyone to stop “Hey children, you know what time it is?  Rock n roll children, do you realize what time it is?”  But Mike won’t stop.  Dave starts playing “You Are Very Star” and Martin starts singing even while mike thunders away.  They finish the song in a childlike way and someone says, “Aw young’uns you’re all so adorable.”

“The Land Is Wild” starts with Dave solo.  It builds but people mess up the end on him.”  Then Tim plays a new one (“Listening”) with Ida from Vancouver  Great Aunt Ida has opened for them the last few nights).

“Legal Age Life At Variety Store” starts.  Dave says, “I think it’s time.”  Tim: “For me to play the drums?”  It’s tradition.  Every year for the five years or maybe even longer…  I don’t mean Martin playing the bongos, or mike playing the bass or Tim playing the drums.  It’s the fifth annual Horseshoe twist contest.”

Mike is terrible at the bass and Tim screws up a fill, “I know, I know, I’m back on the bass.”  “Timmy ‘smooth fills’ is fired.”  “I’m not fired so much as demoted, downsized.”  The contestants, are Melissa, Eric “that’s Eric with his version of the twist.”    Stephanie fulfilling her life-long dream to twist with the Rheostatics.  Susan, Paul and James.  As the twist continues, Martin starts talking in a crazy Russian accent: “Hi, my name is Wendell Clark (presumably he has the Wendell doll). Can you twist with Wendell.? I guess i think Wendell Clark is Russian or something.”

Then he introduces “the twist champion of the greater Ottawa Valley Ron Koop.  All of our contestants have been super fine–they all get something from the merch table and the honor of twisting with Ron Koop.”

After nearly 20 minutes of Legal Age Life and twisting they play “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne.”  Dave switches the words to “Wendell, dear old Wendell” and Ford gets on organ solo.

After a jaunty “PIN,” Dave says, “don’t worry fellas, you guys are going to get to the leather bar.  Things don’t really get started until 5 clock.

And after all of that, they end the nearly three hour show with a ten minute scorching version of “Horses.”  When they get to the Talking Heads part, Martin sings it in the robot voice–which sounds pretty awesome.  It’s a great ending, a great set, and quite a shame that the band broke up a few months after this.:.

[READ: July 26, 2017] The Stone Heart

It had been a year since I’d read the first book in this trilogy.  I was worried that I’d forget what had happened, but Hicks catches us up pretty quickly and, more importantly, her storytelling was so good in the first book that it was easy to get right back into this exciting story.

The story opens on Rat and Kaidu–Rat has been doing some physical therapy on her hurt ankle and is feeling pretty much all better.

As a nice reminder, we see Rat and Kaidu meeting Ezri, the son of the General of All Blades.  In the last book, it was Rat and Kaidu who saved Erzi and the city.

We also see that a monk is there to discuss things with the general.  Rat knows the monk (named Joah) who used to be a soldier but rescinded violence when he joined the monastery.  Then we also see that Erzi’d guard Mura also knows the Monk and doesn’t seem to like him much. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 7 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 14, 2005).

This was the 7th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe, Whale Music night.

On this night the Rheostatics were made up of 7 people, the usual suspects, plus Ford Pier on Keys, legendary pedal steel player Lewis Melville, and what Whale Music would be complete without Dave Clark. For those keeping track that’s 2 drummers in the band for this show! There were a few other guests as well, Brother Rick on “Guns” and Tannis Slimmon on “Palomar”. At the end of “Legal Age Life” Dave C got up from the drums and pulled a slide whistle out of his pocket and proceeded to solo on it, Martin, not one to be shown up, ran off stage and grabbed a flute and came back to duel with Dave. On Claire some of the band switched things up, Tim, Dave C, Lewis,and Martin kept to their normal rolls but Dave B played Drums, Mike played tambourine and Ford played bass. Dave Clark’s mic wasn’t working until “The Headless One”. Edmund Fitzgerald was played in complete darkness for most of the song which added a nice ambiance, towards the end blue lights were turned on. And if that wasn’t a great way to end the show they played a fiery rendition of Horses.

No Whale Music night would be complete without mentioning Paul Quarrington.  Dave talks about the inspiration of the book and then says, “we thought it was only right to bring Paul Quarrington to open the show.”  You can hear someone on the tape gasp and then you hear, He was right beside you!”  “Oh my God!”

Paul reads an except from when Desmond is talking about making whale music and seeing Claire sunbathing.  It’s weird with no context, but most people fans surely read it.  The audio quality isn’t great at the start but by the end of the excerpt it sounds great and so does the rest of the show.

They open the show with a ripping “Self Serve Gas Station.”  Tim says that there never used to be an outro.  Dave started strumming the chords again while they were recording it and the other guys joined in.  Dave: “What is this classic albums or something?  Yeah I guess it is.”  “I believe I was wearing a purple shirt….” It segues into a fantastic “California Dreamline.”  It ends with the clapping intro for “Rain Rain Rain.”  They have some cool warbly backing vocals during the “feeling pretty down” part in the second half.  There’s a great bass “solo” underneath the quieter vocals and then the band has crazy fun during the last verse with jazzy chords followed by big rocking chords.

Dave starts “Queer” but Ford starts playing “Everyday People” (no doubt a nod to Cece singing it the other night).  Despite Dave’s starting the words to “Queer,” Ford just starts singing “Everyday People” and the whole band joins in (Ford has a great high voice for the chorus).  When “Queer” starts, everyone sounds fantastic.  Ford gets a little piano solo before the end.  And then came Lewis Melville on the guitar.

Dave: “Here’s another song from, jeez, Whale Music.  Playing the whole album makes banter inconsequential.”

“King Of The Past” sounds good, but someone messes up the chorus–I think Tim is too early both times.  But no one stops.  Musically it sounds fine–especially the bass.  During the outro solo, Dave shouts, “give birth to that horse, Martin.”  Martin’s solo and wild and punky noises from the keys work as a segue into a blistering “RDA” with lots of screaming.   Dave sings a few choruses of “They don’t give a fuck about anybody else.”  At the end Mike notes, “we brought a drill (there’s a drill on the record for this song) but left it in the dressing room.

Dave notes that “Don Kerr will be with us tomorrow night.  We’ll have the full complement.”

Several times they’ve asked for more of Dave Clark’s voice in the monitor.  It’s possible that he wasn’t audible to anyone.  Dave says, “You had a Gil Moore moment.”  Dave notes: “Mike Levine was the first rock star to live on the Danforth.”  Ford: Mike Levine’s dad was the President of [inaudible].  What a squarehead.  Bean counter.”

“The Headless One” doesn’t get played much (Mike say first time in about 15 years) and it sounds good–again the bass sounds really great.

For some reason, Martin says, “We got mild, medium and no hot sauce at all.”  “Legal Age Life At Variety Store” features Lewis Melville on the pedal steel.  It’s followed by a slide whistle solo from Dace Clark.  Dave: “Bring it, Vesely, bring it. (Tim is on drums).  Oh don’t stop there, man, I can hear those Irish fjords calling me.”  Then Martin grabs the penny whistle to compete with Dave.  Mike: “That’s one sharp trap drumming by Tim Vesely there.”

Martin says, “I’ve only counted three mistakes so far.”  And then Tim busts out the accordion for a great “What’s Going On Around Here?”

For “Shaved Head,” Tim says, “I think we recorded this song in the dark.  Martin was in the hallway.  There were candles–a major fire hazard, but we’re all about flouting the law.  Was there grappa.  Grappa was Melville.  Mike: “We’ve matured since then… it was fine scotch.”  Martin: Does anyone know why booze explodes?  Answer: “When you don;t drink, it explodes.

Ford says, “Whats next?  At this part of the record I get up and get a snack.”  Mike says, “This is the part of the record that I think of Tannis Slimmon.  She is such a beautiful person.  One of the kindest and most gentle people I’ve ever met.  And on top of that and she sings like a bird) and we happen to have her here.”  It’s a lovely version of “Palomar.”

Tim says one of his favorite Canadian albums of all time is The Bird Sisters She, She & She.

I believe that Dave Clark gets up: “Ladies and gentlemen, Neil Peart” (not really).  “The motorcycling has done wonders for his physique.”

Clark: “Friends, is everybody being kind to each other?  I thought so.”  Clark does “Guns” and has updated his beat poetry.  He gets a chant going, “What don’t we need?”  “Guns!”  “We need more peace.”    He has the audience make some drum sounds and then Bidini plays the bongos and he sings “getting it on the circuits.”

There’s more accordion for “Sickening Song.”  It sounds great although at the end, Dave says we used to sound a lot more Italian.  Tim says I think I found my new calling–no more lugging around heavy bass amplifiers.  He continues to play the accordion until the start of “Soul Glue.”  In the middle, Dave shouts, “How about a pedal steel guitar solo?” Then Dave shouts, “how about a rock n roll guitar solo?”  “Ford Pier keyboard solo?”  Tim, “May I ask for a bass solo?”

They need to practice the opening vocal harmony, but they nail it for “Beerbash,” Hey everybody Dave is gonna sing a song right now for all you kids.  There’s a pretty slide guitar solo.

And then Tim says, “This album never ends.”  Dave: “This album isn’t over is what Tim means to say.  We have two more.”

They talk a bit about Reaction Studios where they recorded Melville and Whale Music.  It closed down the day before. And somewhere along the lines some major music company bought the rights [to Whale Music] and we have no connection to the thing.  (But you can get it in zunior).

Up next is “Who?”  The whole song sounds good until the final two notes.  Martin cringes and then says, “we have never played that with you, Michael?  Nope, never.”

The album ends with “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds.”  It sounds terrific and they even thrown in a full version of “Alomar” for fun.

After having played the album, they take a break and then come back to play “Claire.”  The bass sounds a little off on this song–slightly out of tune?  The song sounds good although in the middle section someone hits a terrible chord, but hey come out of that okay and finish strong.

Something happens on stage and Martin says “A request” and then plays jazzy number:  “mild hot or medium.”  There are no standards for spicy.  He then asks, “What are we doing now, Dave?  Are we gonna do all of 2112?”  He starts playing “Song of Flight” and Ford starts singing, “We are the priests!”

While Martin plays, “Song Of Flight” Tim sings “around the rainbow three times” in tune.

Dave asks them to shut off the stage lights completely.  There are some ominous chords and some shushing.  Then Tim starts singing “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.”  They do a great job and they throw in the “I wish I was back home in Derry” part.  It segues into a scorching “Horses.”  During it they “give the drummer some.”  Not sure who gets to solo or is it both or them?  It’s a good solo.  And then one more solo from Mr Louis Melville.

They turn that fifty minute album into an excellent two and a half hour show.

[READ: July 17, 2017] Pigs Might Fly

I really enjoyed Abadzis’ book Laika.  I thought it was factually interesting and cleverly written.  And I think my joy at that book impacted why I disliked this book so much.

This is a fairly simple story (although it is made rather complicated).

A girl, Lily, is a good airplane creator.  Her father is supposed to be the airplane creator.  He refuses to use magic in his creations believing that only science can keep a plane in the air.  But when the neighboring town starts attacking with their own airplanes, Lily takes it upon herself to fight them.

Okay, fine.

But here’s the thing.  This story is all about pigs.  And I don’t know why.  Aside from the title that allows for the joke of pigs flying, there’s no “reason” to have made these characters pigs.  Well, also because Abadzis wanted to stuff this book full of awful pig/hog puns. (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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SOUNDTRACK: TED LEO-Tiny Desk Concert #678 (December 4, 2017).

Up until now, I have more or less missed Ted Leo and all of his phases.  The blurb notes:

How you listen to Leo depends on when his work came into your life. If you’re a back-in-the-day type you might rep for Chisel, his ’90s punk outfit born on the Notre Dame campus and bred in Washington, D.C. If you’re just tuning in, you may have witnessed his understated comedy chops in arenas like The Best Show on WFMU and a highly enjoyable Twitter feed. At the center of this bell curve are those who found Leo at the dawn of the 2000s — when, at the helm of what’s most commonly called Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (shout-out to the typographical variants still mucking up iTunes libraries), he kicked off a run of five stellar albums in just under 10 years, each one urgently attuned to its political context and yet defiant in its ideas of what punk could sound like and whose stories it could aim to tell. Fans will tell you the songs about eating disorders and missing old ska bands felt just as vital to their moment as those that explicitly took on Sept. 11 and the Iraq War.

I know Ted Leo from when he played with Aimee Mann as The Both (they did a Tiny Desk show) and I am aware of Ted Leo + Pharmacists (the above mentioned typographical variant), but I somehow never really heard him/them.  I didn’t even know he was a Jersey guy.  (My friend Al is a big fan, I recently learned).

Recently, WXPN has been playing his new song “Can’t Go Back” which is wonderfully poppy and catchy and which I sing along to each morning.  Leaning more about him (and how funny he is in the Tiny Desk show) makes me want to see what I’ve been missing.

I obviously had no idea about his punk past, so I was pretty surprised to hear the feedback and heavy guitar of the first song here “Moon Out of Phase.”  Leo sings pretty hard on this song, too.  It’s fairly simple musically, but there’s a bunch going on lyrically that’s fun to pick out.

[After] the bone-rattling slow burn “Moon Out of Phase,” he smiled and explained the song was perhaps “a little heavy for noon — but, practically speaking, it helps me get the cobwebs out.”

“Can’t Go Back” couldn’t be more different. It’s catchy and not at all heavy.  It has backing vocals (provided by Leo himself) and just swings along.

 It’s a bit faster than on record, and as the blurb notes:

By the time he hit the first chorus of “Can’t Go Back,” a danceable bop about accepting that the life you have isn’t quite the one you planned for, any remaining cobwebs had been scattered to the wind.

Interestingly for being such a guitar based guy, there;s no solos on the songs (and yet they’re not short either, the first and third songs are about 4 minutes long).  Rather than a solo on “Can’t Get Back,” there’s a cool guitar chord progression.

He seems unsure of the quality of that song (not sure why–because he doesn’t hit those high notes perfectly?)  But then says he’ll finish off with a request.  “I’m a Ghost” is an old song that he doesn’t usually play solo, but figured he would because of the time of year (guess this was recorded around Halloween).

He tells an amusing story about someone asking about the first line: “I’m ghost and I wanted you to know its taking all of my strength to make this toast.”  The person asked if the toast was “a toast” or a ghost pressing the lever down on a toaster and “the hand of the frosty apparition is just going through the thing.”  He says it was originally “a toast” but now it is absolutely about the toaster, that’s the greatest metaphor for so many things.”

It’s really about “alienation from the political process.” It’s more rocking, like the first song, but with a catchy chorus like the second song.  This is a fun set and a good, long-overdue introduction to Ted Leo.

[READ: April 6, 2017] The Golden Vendetta

This is the third full-sized book in the Copernicus series.  It follows the mini-book about Becca.

I enjoyed this book more than the second one.  I enjoy the sections where they have some downtime and aren’t just running around.  And there was more downtime in this book.  I was also really intrigued by the way it began.

The families had been reunited and them separated.  So Darrell and Wade and the adults Kaplans were living in a hotel under an assumed name.  And Lily and Becca were also together under assumed names–but they were not allowed to contact the boys.  This went on for two months.

In that time Galina Krause had been inactive.  We learn that she had been in a coma, but the good guys never find that out, they’re just in the dark for months.

Until Galina wakes up and is on the move again.  And then everyone is on the move.

The families travel under assumed names but are still followed relentlessly by the bad guys. (more…)

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