Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pete Cosey: The thrilling guitar on "Agharta"

One of the greatest guitarists you might not have heard about died yesterday, age 68.
PETE COSEY provided the Hendrix-like playing on several of MILES DAVIS' electric-era albums, including the towering "AGHARTA" from 1976.
As described by jazz writer Paul Tingen:
"Pete Cosey's jaw-dropping solos on 'Agharta' are a major revelation. Sometimes growling, scurrying around all corners like a caged tiger, sometimes soaring like a bird, sometimes deliriously abstract, sometimes elegantly melodic and tender, his electric guitar concept is one of the most original to have been devised on the instrument. It still sounds advanced in the 21st century."
I drive to OMAHA, NEB., this afternoon for a conference, playing "Agharta" and enjoying Cosey's work.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Doc Watson made the elemental something exquisite

I went to sleep last night listening to a version of "Sitting on Top of the World" by DOC WATSON, the folk guitar virtuoso who died yesterday, age 89.
Enjoying that song, I was struck by how Watson, blind since age 1, had such a marvelous ear for music and such remarkable dexterity in his hands.
He took a relatively simple blues tune and picked a flurry of notes that didn't decorate the song as much as infuse it with a marvelous complexity.
He could make the elemental something exquisite, which is why Watson's legacy will endure so much longer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Buffer between cult fave & commercial darling

On my just-completed, 50-song AZTEC CAMERA playlist, a live version of "Mattress of Wire" sits between "Knife" and "Deep & Wide & Tall."
The song provides a buffer spanning the schism that divided the musical catalog of singer/songwriter RODDY FRAME and his fans.
"Knife" is the title song of the 1984 album that became a darling of Frame's original set of fans. "Deep & Wide & Tall" is the opening song on "Love," the best-selling followup of 1987.
The former is spartan and heartfelt. The latter has a pop sheen more befitting its era.
"The dubious recruitment of producer Mark Knopfler turned out to be a godsend as Frame's earlier fragility starts turning towards darker, earthen energies," critic Dave Thompson wrote about "Knife."
Thompson also wrote about the dichotomy of "Love."
"Love was a backward step into pop cliche, an attempt to make a record which would work on American radio. Love fared very disappointingly. However, in March 1988, 'How Men Are,' 'Somewhere in My Heart' and 'Working in a Goldmine' saw interest in Aztec Camera soar to new peaks,"
The transition from cult fave to commercial darling can seem jarring. I like both sides of Aztec Camera, but I also like having the buffer of "Mattress of Wire" to soften the abruptness of the change.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What's missing from Eurovision? Wackiness

There was something important missing from yesterday's EUROVISION SONG CONTEST, and no, it wasn't a better song for U.K. entrant ENGLEBERT HUMPERDINCK -- I don't think anything would have lifted the 76-year-old crooner into the top level.
No, there was a decided lack of wackiness (aside from Finland's monstrous LORDI reading his country's voting results).
Swedish winner LOREEN deservedly won for the song "Euphoria," but it is the type of electro-pop heard every day on radio stations across the globe.
What I always liked about the Eurovision contest was the occasional oddities thrown up by nations unused to the spotlight's glare.
Of course, this year's contest had Russia's singing grannies -- BURANOVSKIYE BABUSHKI -- but they were cute rather than wacky.
Where were the men on unicycles playing violins?
Where were the towering, conical hats?
Where were the homemade, matching costumes probably tailored by a contestant's mom?
Ireland's JEDWARD still seem comically homemade, but their low vote total betrayed what Europe thinks of them -- charmless chancers.
They're nowhere near as bizarre as DUSTIN THE TURKEY (Ireland, 2008).
The Eurovision is losing some of its attraction for me.
They need to bring back some of the weirdness.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Great look at the Boy

The homecoming from my SAN FRANCISCO trip included watching a BBC-TV drama about KERSTIN'S latest interest.
"WORRIED ABOUT THE BOY" is Julian Jarrold's drama about the early career of BOY GEORGE -- moving from squatter working in the cloakroom of the Blitz nightclub to fronting CULTURE CLUB during the band's inaugural appearance on "Top of the Pops."
DOUGLAS BOOTH is astounding as Boy George -- looking the part and cracking one-liners like a real-life George O'Dowd.
The remainder of the cast is also great, including Freddie Fox as the Monroe-alike Marilyn, Mark Gatiss as Malcolm McLaren and MATHEW HORNE -- yes, Gavin out of "Gavin & Stacey" -- as Culture Club drummer Jon Moss.
The 2010 film is available on iTunes if you're interested. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Back from the Bay

Hmm... Where to begin...
I tried to pack as much of the CITY BY THE BAY as I could into my just-completed trip to SAN FRANCISCO.
I traversed the city, from breakers to bay and back, enjoying sushi and good beer and a marvelous burrito while gazing at the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE at Baker Beach.
My sister INGER and I attended a pair of games between cross-bay rivals the GIANTS and the ATHLETICS. We also watched CHELSEA win the CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL in an Irish pub (mysteriously filled with BAYERN MUNICH supporters).
I shopped at world-famous Amoeba Music and the equally sprawling Kinokuniya Book Store in NIHON MACHI (JAPANTOWN).
I even took a much-needed stroll around LAKE MERRITT, the watery urban jewel at the heart of my birthplace, OAKLAND.
It was a wonderful trip, but it also confirmed my resolve to return to the West for good, once the girls complete their high school educations here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Heading to S.F. Be back next week!

Monday, May 14, 2012

A season's worth of excitement in a single match

I needed to sleep on it to realize -- yesterday's MANCHESTER CITY title clincher had a season's worth of excitement packed into a single match.
Trailing 1-2 to 10-man visitors QUEENS PARK RANGERS and heading into stoppage time, Man City seemed doomed to a memorable, perhaps emotionally scarring failure.
Then, Edin Dzeko and ultimately, Sergio Aguero, scored to flip the throngs of supporters from weeping frustration to weeping glory. Man City were 3-2 winners.
Add Joey Barton's ridiculously moronic behavior following his sending off and Jamie Mackie's dramatic counter-attacking goal, and there really did seem to be a season's worth of excitement in a single match.
I know I will never forget it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hailing Donald Dunn, a towering talent

DONALD "DUCK" DUNN, who died today, age 70, was among the greatest bass player of his or any other generation.
Even if you discount his work with BOOKER T. & THE M.G.S -- which you can't -- his resume is beyond impressive.
"Born Under a Bad Sign" by Albert King? Yep, that's Dunn playing. "I Can't Turn You Loose" by Otis Redding? Dunn. "Hold On, I'm Comin'" by Sam & Dave? Yes again. Dunn. "In the Midnight Hour" by Wilson Pickett? Face it, Dunn's bass anchored a host of the classics upon which SOUL MUSIC has been crafted.
He died in Tokyo, after performing a pair of shows, which demonstrates that his commitment to the music hadn't waned during his advancing years.
I'm listening to Booker T. & The M.G.s today, relishing the talents of a music who will be definitely missed.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The joys of keeping score

On a whim, I decided to do something at the ballpark today that I haven't done in ages.
I kept score. 
The MILWAUKEE BREWERS beat the CHICAGO CUBS, 8-2, and my family was among the 42,339 spectators.
I was the only one of my group scribbling numerical and other symbols on paper following every play. 
That was a ground out, with the shortstop catching the ball and tossing it to the first basemen. 
That was a strikeout. 
A line up the right-hand side of a diamond, with "1B" written on the side? 
That was a single. 
During my college years, I *always* seemed to keep score at baseball games. I love it. It was a way to focus on the game, as well as a way to remember the game days, weeks or even months later.
I'm not sure why I quit, but I know after today that I want to get back into the habit. 
One of the notations on my scorecard today is a filled-in diamond, with "HR" written on the left-hand side. The three diamonds above this diamond were also completely darkened by my pen.
 They represent the first Major-League grand slam by Brewers second basemen Edwin Maysonet. 
That's a special moment I am glad I will remember, thanks to my scorecard.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Identifying the perfect Friday night

They call it "T.G.I.F." for a reason, and this week, ROUTE 1 readers provide some of those reasons by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What's your idea of a perfect Friday night?"
RICK T. -- Go out for a fine supper and a walk on the beach!
BEKAH P. -- Me getting engaged to Jason Segel. Wait... We were talking about Fantasy Friday, right?
JIM S. -- Well, that has definitely changed over the years.
During my 20s, it was warm up with a few beers with friends before going out to party at the disco til the ball quit spinning (sans silk shirt, tho!)
In my 30s, it was covering a high school game, whipping out the game story, then heading out after deadline with fellow TH sports guys for a nightcap - possibly even in East Dubuque.
In my 40s, it was going out to a quieter night spot and maybe staying out til midnight.
In my 50s, it's relaxing at home with Kris and contemplating going out on Saturday night.
KERSTIN H. -- Hanging out with friends, not thinking about anything.
BRIAN M. -- Simply, a night out with friends, with dinner, watching comedians, libating, laughing.
JOHN S. -- Pizza and a movie.
ERIK H. -- Good music, maybe sitting outside by the backyard fire.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Enjoying an old favorite: It's "Help!"

The girls and I enjoyed an old favorite on DVD last night, watching RICHARD LESTER'S second film with THE BEATLES, "HELP!," on our new, big television.
The songs are memorable, the gags are hilarious and the cast (including Leo McKern and Victor Spinetti) is remarkable.
Critic Stanley Green described "Help!" as "combining Marx Brothers gags with a James Bond spoof in a manner predating television's 'Monty Python.'"
"As he had in their first film, director Richard Lester put the boys through a frenzied pace which found John, Paul, George and Ringo -- each one seemingly a variation on the three others -- performing their numbers on a television screen, at a recording session, in their London flat, on Salisbury Plain, in the snow and on a Bahamian beach," Green writes.
We thoroughly enjoyed "Help!" and the 90 minutes were up all too soon.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Shocked introduction to the Euros

The latest WORLD SOCCER issue features a supplement detailing the history of the EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS in advance of this summer's edition.
As I read the supplement I recalled my introduction to the tournament.
I was in HOLLAND during the 1980 edition, won by WEST GERMANY.
I mostly recall the scenes of hooliganism provided by idiotic ENGLAND supporters.
England finished with a mediocre record on the pitch -- a win, a draw and a loss. Off the pitch, the team's supporters received the blackest of marks for behavior.
Accustomed to American sports and sports fans, I was frankly shocked to see such blatant fighting at a match.
I still have a Dutch soccer magazine relating the awful events. They remind me of my introduction to the Euros.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Woke up with Sparks

I woke up singing along to SPARKS, which was odd, since I haven't actually listened to RON & RUSSELL MAEL in ages.
Well, I'm listening today.
I've loved the Los Angeles band since high school and the brilliant single, "I PREDICT," which I played constantly and still have on 45.

Monday, May 07, 2012

"Paul's Boutique" blows away my original dismissal

I listened to more BEASTIE BOYS in the car today, still rather shocked at the recent death of ADAM "MCA" YAUCH.
Today, I played "PAUL'S BOUTIQUE," and I readily admit the trio's second album -- packed with dense layers of sampling -- had to grow on me. I didn't fully appreciate the album when it originally debuted.
Now, it's hard not to be blown away.
I love how the producers, THE DUST BROTHERS, so cleverly employed the vast amount of samples at their disposal, ranging from the bassline to the EAGLES' "Those Shoes," used on "High Plains Drifter," to TOWER OF POWER'S "Drop it in the Slot," used on "Eggman."
My favorite track is probably "Year and a Day," one of the portions of "B-Boy Bouillabaisse." The song begins with a sample of "Ebony Jam" by Tower of Power and also features sampling of "Who's That Lady" by the ISLEY BROTHERS.
I listened to it on a walk when I got home. The song is majestic, as is the album I once -- mistakenly -- dismissed.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Orioles' Davis goes from zero to hero in 17 innings

I worked today and when I returned home was rather astonished to discover that a baseball game that had begun six hours before was still underway, so I tuned in on the radio.
Designated hitter CHRIS DAVIS transformed himself from "zero" to "hero" as the visiting ORIOLES beat the RED SOX, 9-6, in 17 innings.
Davis struck out five times and grounded into a double play. His moment of glory arrived on the mound, after Baltimore ran out of pitchers late in the marathon contest.
Davis tossed two scoreless innings in his first major-league pitching appearance.
I had never heard anything quite like it, in all my years of listening to and attending baseball games.
Baltimore's Adam Jones also starred late in the game. He hit a three-run homer in the top of the 17th inning -- off Boston outfielder Darnell McDonald, who was also pitching because his team had run out of pitchers.
It was a remarkable contest, and it meant much for the Orioles. They swept Boston in a three-game series at Fenway for the first time since 1994 and -- lo and behold -- ended the long game with the best record in baseball.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

My Beastie Boys memories

I actually tried BRASS MONKEY because of the BEASTIE BOYS.
A couple of fellow collegiate hooligans and I were easily influenced, I guess, and while blaring Beastie Boys' music throughout several unsuspecting neighborhoods around campus, we swilled the pre-mixed concoction of alcohol and orange juice.
My connection to the Beastie Boys stretches back to 1985, when I purchased the 12-inch single of "SHE'S ON IT," the trio's debut hip-hop single.
I thought about that song, the drink, and the years of enjoying the Beastie Boys after learning of yesterday's death of founding member ADAM "MCA" YAUCH.

Friday, May 04, 2012

BiRtHdAy WeEk Friday Question is about...

Here at ROUTE 1, we can never understand people who don't care for their BIRTHDAY.
Why? It's a holiday invented just for you!
In honor of BiRtHdAy WeEk, readers answer the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
KERI M. -- Sleep in and do nothing.
RICK T. -- My wife, Tina, and I share the same birthday date, Aug. 25th. I like to take her out to celebrate both our birthdays.
SANDYE V. -- I like to go out for supper in a nice restaurant. Since my birthday is in January, I also like to NOT shovel or drive in the snow.
BRIAN M. -- Since I am blessed with having a birthday in the summer, my birthday usually includes two of my favorite things, baseball and a road trip. I was fortunate last year to make it up to Everett, WA, and the last of the Northwest League ballparks I had not seen.
ERIK H. -- I like to listen to good music and eat good food with my family.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

BiRtHdAy WeEk's Best Quote: "You cut off his arm, so what?"

BiRtHdAy WeEk continued last night with a viewing of what might possibly be the coolest film... ever.
"DUBEI DAO (a.k.a. THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN)" is a 1967 Hong Kong wuxia (magical martial arts) film starring Jimmy Wang as a young swordsman who loses his arm to a swipe of a sword by his teacher's spoiled daughter.
The peasant girl who saved the swordsman's life gives him an aging, half-burnt swordplay manual that helps spark a remarkable return to form -- one arm or not.
The special effects are rudimentary, the bloodletting is extraordinary, but the real power behind the film -- and why I consider it to be so cool -- is the theme of overcoming disability to become heroic.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Storms, J.B. Lenoir and BiRtHdAy WeEk

I've always had an affinity for musicians slightly out of step with the mainstream -- I guess because I have always felt slightly out of step myself.
Today, BiRtHdAy WeEk continues as I listen to J.B. LENOIR, a flamboyant blues performer whose song choices veered from the mainstream, my-baby-done-me-wrong territory into a realm of biting, social and political commentary.
His "Eisenhower Blues" paints a vivid picture of how early 1950s economic priorities originating from the White House directly impacted his life. Not the typical subject matter pressed onto vinyl in those days.
Blues is also great to hear on rainy days, and storms woke up us an hour or so earlier than usual today.
I should write a blues about that -- "NOAA WEATHER RADIO WAKE ME UP TALKING BLUES."
Hang on, J.B.! I'm catching up with ya!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

BiRtHdAy WeEk continues with Miles

BiRtHdAy WeEk continues today with more great music.
I'm listening to MILES DAVIS IN PERSON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHTS AT THE BLACKHAWK -- one of my favorite jazz albums.
The 1961 recording features trumpeter Davis backed by four stellar musicians -- pianist WYNTON KELLY, bassist PAUL CHAMBERS, drummer JIMMY COBB and tenor saxophone player HANK MOBLEY.
The quintet play a jazz infused with blues and gospel -- not quite the experimentation usually associated with Davis, but uniformly excellent music nonetheless.
Songs such as "Neo" and "I Thought About You" include astounding solos and memorable melodies.
It's a fantastic album anytime. It just sounds better during BiRtHdAy WeEk.