Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blue provides a pick-me-up

I needed another aural "pick-me-up" for my morning walk, so I turned to "DOWN WITH IT" by BLUE MITCHELL.
The trumpeter is joined by tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor, drummer Al Foster and even young pianist Chick Corea on this 1965 album.
Mitchell crafted his band out of the remnants of the HORACE SILVER group, with Corea taking the place of that combo's pianist/leader.
This album opens with Mitchell's jazz version of "Hi-Heel Sneakers," an R&B hit. It's an appropriately cooking number to jump start a morning walk.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hot grooves for a hot summer

If the weather has to be HOT, the grooves might as well be, too.
That's my thinking today, as the temperatures once again rise and I play "THE NATURAL SOUL" album by one of my favorite jazzmen, LOU DONALDSON.
An album with tracks such as "Funky Mama" and "Nice 'n' Greasy" signals its intent before the first notes emerge from the speakers.
This 1962 album blazes out of the speakers.
Alto saxophonist Donaldson teams with trumpeter Tommy Turrentine and the absolutely dead-on funky trio of guitarist Grant Green (another of my absolute favorites), organist Big John Patton and drummer Ben Dixon and this group can really cook.
A perfect summer record, you might say!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Following Hsing's progress

One of the LONDON OLYMPICS stories our family has been following is the TABLE TENNIS medal pursuit by ARIEL HSING.
The senior-to-be at San Jose's Valley Christian High has won twice at the Games, while her story has intrigued my daughters.
Hsing, 16, began playing table tennis at age 7 and by 15 won the U.S. National Championship.
What's more, her parents reportedly demand she maintain a 4.0 grade-point average if she hopes to compete.
Me, I don't think I'd be cut out for Olympic-grade table tennis. The blurred, relentlessly whizzing ball would probably give me nightmares.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What a Ceremony! With a little Mud and Millie!

There's one way to upstage the gaudy spectacle of Beijing, we said, as we watched the LONDON 2012 OLYMPICS OPENING CEREMONY last night:
Play to your strengths, Britain, which means highlighting a peerless musical heritage.
Like billions of others, our family enjoyed watching the broadcast of last night's ceremony.
"Enola Gay" by ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK, "My Boy Lollipop" by MILLIE SMALL, "Tiger Feet" by MUD and "A Message to You Rudy" by THE SPECIALS were among the surprise musical choices that made us smile.
I complained, of course, when NBC cut away to a commercial during the "punk rock phase" of the musical tribute. Cowards!
My favorite moment came when our ANNIKA remarked that organizers should play a QUEEN song, with the opening strains of "Bohemian Rhapsody" beginning just as she finished her sentence.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rarely good when national news reports from your town

It's rarely a good sign when the national news reports live from your town.
That thought struck me last night, when NBC NIGHTLY NEWS reported on the DROUGHT'S impact on the MISSISSIPPI RIVER, with correspondent John Yang doing his stand-up report from DUBUQUE.
This summer's lack of water has dropped the river to low levels. The river is at 5.5 feet at Lock and Dam No. 11. The river stood at 9.87 feet at the Lock and Dam this time last year. 
The level is much lower downriver. The river gauge is about 2 feet in ST. LOUIS and could drop to zero by the end of July -- potentially halting river traffic.
There's no significant rain in the region's forecast, so national news reports based locally could become more frequent before the summer ends.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A dose of country comfort

I spent much of yesterday waiting in a hospital waiting room, passing the time with Ray Price, Floyd Tillman, George Jones and some other giants of COUNTRY MUSIC.
Their tales of heartbreak, betrayal and drinking somehow made me feel better. 
That's one of the powers of music, right? The ability to provide comfort.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The magnetic Maddox Brothers & Rose

For the past several days I have been hopelessly enthralled by the exhilarating sounds of the MADDOX BROTHERS & ROSE.
Not that I'm complaining.
I've always loved the raucous early country of the Alabama-born CALIFORNIA combo touted as "America's Most Colorful Hillbilly Band."
There's a hint of rock and roll in the rockabilly numbers on the pair of ARHOOLIE RECORDS compilations I've been enjoying.
"Maddox Brothers & Rose were one of the postwar era's most hard-charging, forward-looking country bands," writes critic Jonny Whiteside. "The band, with their mix of southern folk music, contemporary western song, and roguish, black-influenced boogie, built an avid following."
I continue to follow the band's intoxicating mix.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Oh boy: Readers share their favorite Buddy Holly songs

His songs have been covered by acts ranging from The Beatles to Lyle Lovett and from The Rolling Stones to The Fray.
BUDDY HOLLY left a lasting legacy despite his short career.
This week, ROUTE 1 readers celebrate that legacy by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What's your favorite Buddy Holly song?"
BRIAN C. -- "True Love Ways," just edging "Rave On."
JIM S. -- "That'll Be the Day." Interestingly, I like another completely different "That'll Be the Day," by the Partridge Family, just as much (but I'm kind of a nerd).
KERI M. -- "Everyday."
MARY N.-P. -- That's kind of like asking what your favorite brand of chocolate is - how can you ever choose? To pick one, I guess it would be "Rave On." Such talent cut short far too early.
RICK T. -- "Every Day." Love that song.
SANDYE V. -- It's between "Peggy Sue" and "That'll Be the Day."
BRIAN M. -- Perhaps his most aggressive recording, "Not Fade Away."
ERIK H. -- Buddy Holly's influence is so great, I didn't even realize he performed the original of "Crying, Waiting, Hoping," a song I had heard by The Beatles as well as a number of country artists.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Supporting South Africa

Graeme Smith... A.B.de Villiers... Hashim Amla... Jean-Paul Duminy...
I've been reading about the SOUTH AFRICA cricketers in advance of tomorrow's first Test against ENGLAND at The Oval in London.
This summer's series could determine the world's top-ranked, Test-playing nation. England currently hold the top spot but could be overtaken by this series' visitors -- ranked third behind Australia.
I've supported South African cricket since the fall of APARTHEID.
I hated the team as a youth, as they represented a nation under tyranny and attracted "rebel" tours by waving gobs of cash at cricketers who faced long bans for traveling to South Africa while the country was banned from sports.
Now, cricket provides a rallying point for all South Africans -- as it should.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Beto Villa's pioneering sound

While CHARLIE PARKER blew his way through New York's 52nd street clubs, another ALTO SAXOPHONE player helped launch another musical revolution in the dance halls of south TEXAS.
BETO VILLA merged the Mexican-American music of his heritage with the popular jazz sounds of the day.
The result was ORQUESTA TEJANA, a pioneering musical form that helped pave the way for TEJANO music.
I've been listening to a lot of Beto Villa y Su Orquesta in this seemingly unrelenting hot weather.
It's thrilling to hear Villa's early attempts to blend genres, while also imagining how these fresh sounds drew La Raza to the dance floors.
You should try it sometime.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dramatic finish to rivalry clash

Two tries in the final two minutes decided one of sport's great rivalries today Down Under.
I listened to the game online as the SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS beat the SYDNEY (EASTERN SUBURBS) ROOSTERS in dramatic fashion.
Rivals since rugby league began in 1908 in AUSTRALIA, the teams annually play for the RON COOTE CUP, a trophy named after the great New South Wales lock who played for both Souths (1964-71) and Easts (1972-78).
Today, Souths' Nathan Merritt scored a try with a minute remaining to close the gap to four points, then Adam Reynolds raced down the field to score the try that leveled the scores as time expired -- and nailed the kick that won the game, 24-22.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

More to "Naked Kiss" than I suspected

Last night I watched the 1964 SAMUEL FULLER neo-noir "THE NAKED KISS" on DVD.
Constance Towers stars as Kelly, a prostitute leaving that life behind as she attempts to renew herself after relocating to a small town.
Anthony Eisley is Griff, the local cop who finds himself both attracted and repelled by Kelly, and Michael Dante plays Grant, the wealthy man with the secret darker than Kelly's past life.
It's a movie with more going on than initially meets the eye.
Critic Lisa Dombrowski writes:
"'The Naked Kiss' might at first appear raw, unbridled and even 'primitive,' but analysis demonstrates just how calculated and intricate its use of visual style is. Fuller takes us on a carefully crafted journey, encouraging us to look beyond appearances and labels, to sift the difference between what is an illusion and what is real."
I'm looking forward to further exploring Fuller's film.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"America's Balladeer" at 100

"Go to sleep you weary hobo, let the towns drift slowly by. Can't you hear the steel rails hummin'? That's the hobo's lullaby."
I've been listening to WOODY GUTHRIE, on the 100th anniversary of the birth of the man Studs Terkel described as "America's balladeer."
"During the epoch of our deepest despair, the Great Depression, his were the songs that lifted the lowly spirits of the 'ordinary,' the millions of the dispossessed," Terkel wrote. "They may have lacked for bread, but he offered them something else: self-esteem, hope and a laugh or two along the way."
Goebel Reeves wrote my favorite Guthrie song, "Hobo's Lullaby," but Woody infused it -- and the subject matter -- with a sublime beauty.
"I know your clothes are torn and ragged and your hair is turning gray. Lift your head and smile at trouble.
You'll find peace and rest someday."
I'll always treasure Guthrie's works, his music and his words. They belong to all of us, and we should be grateful.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Songs that had us smiling

One of music's primary roles in our lives is to bring happiness.
This week, ROUTE 1 readers share their experiences by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What song had you smiling this week?"
MIKE M. -- "I'm Confessin'" by Quintette du Hot Club de France with Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli.
KERI M. -- "Say Hey" by Michael Franti.
MIKE D. -- Since my wife has exposed our sons to one of her favorite musicians — Michael Jackson — I thought I would give them a taste of Weird Al Yankovic, and had them watch his "Eat It" and "Fat" videos on YouTube. And while I was there, I called up Weird Al's "Living with a Hernia" video. Now that's funny!
STEVE M. -- "Mendocino" by the Sir Douglas Quintet.  Two decades ago, right after meeting my future brother in law, the four of us (him, me, and two sisters) were heading from SF to Mendocino in his van.  I told him about the song from my junior high days, but the only words I could remember were "Mendocino!.....Mendocino!......".  He didn't think it was a real song.  I couldn't blame him.
BRIAN M. -- With the weather finally summerlike, I've had a taste for Red Stripe and the rocksteady beat of "The Prince" by Madness in my head.
KERSTIN H. -- Any Queen song... as always.
JOHN S. -- I taught my kids the Oscar Meyer bologna song this weekend.
RICK T. -- Charley Pride's "Wonder Could I Live There Anymore."
ERIK H. -- I had endured a particularly unpleasant day at work this week when I decided to go to bed early and listen to music. I rather randomly chose Genesis, and "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight" had me smiling despite my bad day.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Happy Birthday to Kerstin, Happy Anniversary to the Rolling Stones

While we mark the 17th BIRTHDAY of ROUTE 1 assistant KERSTIN H., we also note another milestone.
THE ROLLING STONES played their first official gig July 12, 1962 at London's Marquee Club, sparking 50th ANNIVERSARY in newspapers, on radio and television and probably in homes like ours, where "Jumping Jack Flash" shares time today "Happy Birthday to You."
Happy birthday, Kerstin, and happy anniversary, Rolling Stones.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Giant night for vindication

As a baseball fan, you always want to see your team's players perform well in the national spotlight of the ALL-STAR GAME.
Of course, nothing prepared me for last night's 83rd All-Star Game, in which members of the SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS led the way to a NATIONAL LEAGUE rout, 8-0 over the AMERICAN LEAGUE.
Fans from other parts of the country had complained that Giants fans were "stuffing the ballot box" when Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey were named All-Star Game starters. Fans elsewhere complained again when Matt Cain received the nod to start the game.
For those who weren't paying attention, Sandoval hit the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star Game history; Cabrera singled, hit a two-run homer and was named the game's Most Valuable Player; Cain pitched two scoreless innings for the victory and Posey drew a first-inning walk and scored.
Incidentally, Cabrera's MVP award was the first for a Giant since Bobby Bonds won in 1973 -- which was also the last time the All-Star Game was played in Kansas City.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A little "Blue Hour" to help sooth the troubled psyche

I just awoke from a disturbing DREAM: We had to share seats at work, and the keys on my keyboard had been so diabolically rearranged that everything I typed was rendered like "fkM ÅM6mLP Ñ0ÿ36 XXt."
I should have been amused at the course the dream was taking, but instead I panicked. I must have been on deadline for writing a story, you see.
I need to calm my frazzled nerves, so I am listening to "BLUE HOUR," an absolutely priceless collaboration between two pillars of cool -- saxophonist STANLEY TURRENTINE and THE 3 SOUNDS, the piano trio led by GENE HARRIS.
It's an excellent record for darkness, because it soothes and comforts.
Today, we'll find out if it works its charms on those emerging from the overnight disturbances of the subconscious.

Monday, July 09, 2012

A heartbreaking look at love colliding with loyalty, tyranny

Tonight, I watched one of the most heartbreaking films on DVD.
MASAKI KOBAYASHI'S "JOI-UCHI: HAIRYO TSUMA SHIMATSU (SAMURAI REBELLION)" demonstrates what can happen when love collides with loyalty and tyranny.
Yoko Tsukasa stars as a feudal lord's mistress ordered to marry a vassal.
Soon after she and the vassal (Go Kato) fall in love, the lord's retainers demand she return, as she is the mother of the clan's sole remaining heir.
Her father-in-law, played by the great Toshiro Mifune, rejects this unjust decision, with terrible consequences for all of the principals.
It's not your typical samurai film. There's very little swordplay until the movie's stunning conclusion.
Instead, "Joi-uchi: Hairyo Tsuma Shimatsu" terrifies with its bleak portrayal of power and its disregard for humanity.
It's a classic film.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Parched beyond words

Today's scenes of the usually verdant fields at the DUBUQUE SOCCER COMPLEX say more about our current DROUGHT than mere words, although the statistics are sobering, too.
 Dubuque is 6.09 inches below normal for yearly rainfall, with a bleak precipitation outlook forecast for the remainder of July. 
July, when these fields are usually vividly GREEN.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Keeping cool with San Antone conjunto

While the scorching temperatures continued to climb yesterday, I kept cool with CONJUNTO.
Specifically, I listened to the ARHOOLIE RECORDS compilation "SAN ANTONIO'S CONJUNTOS IN THE 1950S."
Conjunto means "group" and refers to a musical style born in southern Texas when Mexican-American folk music and romantic ballads combined with the button accordion favored by German-Americans. I rarely know what they're singing about, but my toe never quits tapping. That's good music to me.
This compilation's songs represent some of the popular Tex-Mex output of Rio, record label founded by SAN ANTONIO liquor store owner Hymie Wolf.
From 1948-63, Wolf released on Rio a variety of Tejano acts, Conjunto Alamo, Conjunto Topo Chico, Los Chavalitos and many others. Some became Tex-Mex stars, others faded into obscurity.
Some of the tunes hint at the beginnings of rock-n-roll and start a thread continued by Freddy Fender, Sunny & The Sunglows and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.
I've been listening to a lot of music from Texas during our ongoing HEAT WAVE. "San Antonio's Conjuntos in the 1950s" might be the most purely enjoyable.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Recalling memories of Fourth of July and Canada Day

Say what you want about SAN DIEGO'S FIREWORKS FIASCO (all of the evening's pyrotechnics erupted in 15 seconds because of a technical glitch), but at least it was a memorable night.
Here, ROUTE 1 readers recall their own mid-summer memories by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What are your favorite Fourth of July (or Canada Day) memories?"
SANDYE V. -- The 4th of July was my aunt's birthday, so we always gathered in her big back yard in Homewood, Ill., to eat and play with sparklers and jump off the picnic table into a tiny inflatable pool. My grandmother would freeze snowballs from Christmas and we'd run around and throw them at each other.
KERI M. -- Going to the lake with my family. They have Pancake breakfast and a big Canada Day parade down the main road. 
JIM S. -- The Kieler 4th of July Picnic when our boys were very young. It's a throwback to days of the old. Corny - but sweet - live music, bingo, beer tent, greasy burgers and all those games where the kids toss coins or spin wheels. Won many a dish and liter bottles of pop. One year, Jay's name was pulled out of a hat for a $1,000 prize!
BRIAN M. -- Literally, my first night back in America after a week in Nogales, Mexico, in 1998. I and some adults and a bunch of teenagers were returning from a church missions trip in Nogales and we spent July 4, 1998, at what's now Angels Stadium, seeing A's vs. Angels. Our group of about 15 was in the last row of seats on the highest level at Angels Stadium, and it was the most fun. Of course, there were fireworks.
RICK T. -- Lighting those black charcoal snakes.
ERIK -- It was ironic, we thought at the time. On the night in 1992 when Candlestick park hosted a fireworks display to celebrate the nation's independence, five Cardinals pitchers and four Giants pitchers had combined to toss shutouts for 12 innings. Todd Zeile's RBI single with two out in the top of the 13th won it for St. Louis. Jill and I watched the eventual fireworks from our seats in Section 18, Row F of the lower boxes (betcha can't get those seats at a Giants game these days!) and since many people had given up hope for the Giants long before the fireworks display, the traffic out of the 'Stick parking lot wasn't even that bad.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Perfect film for when you're craving "Texas"

It reached 97 scorching degrees today, and the hot weather had me craving all things "TEXAS," so I listened to some Tejano music, drooled over a photo of a Whataburger and watched John Sayles' magnificent film, "LONE STAR."
Filmed on location in Texas' southwestern border areas, the 1996 release stars CHRIS COOPER as a small-town sheriff who uncovers a number of local secrets -- including one he later regrets unveiling.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY portrays his father, a legendary sheriff, in flashback.
Murder, family relations and even obsessional love for Texas high school football figure into the mix.
Not only do I consider "Lone Star" a quintessential film about the Lone Star State, I also consider it one of my Top-5 favorite films.
If you haven't seen it, well, what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Sahm's heat exhaustion antidote

It took me two full days to recover from the HEAT EXHAUSTION that laid me low while working on Sunday.
I learned first hand that the "exhaustion" part of the heat illness sweeps over a person, much like the fatigue associated with influenza.
I took it easy as I returned to work yesterday, and last night I continued to recover while listening to some fantastic songs by the late DOUG SAHM and his pioneering Tex-Mex rock band (with the English-sounding name!), the SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET.
I especially love the song "TEXAS ME." I decided it's a great song for hot weather.
The AUSTIN CHRONICLE ranked "Texas Me" 13th in its list of the 40 greatest songs with "Texas" in the title (just behind Waylon Jennings' "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love").
The Chronicle writers noted:
"It's hard to imagine a more poignant expatriate's lament than "Texas Me." Doug Sahm was one of many musicians who fled Texas for San Francisco during the Sixties, but he never stopped celebrating his home state. "Texas Me" combines Augie Meyers' swirling organ with steel guitar, fiddle, and Sahm's homesickness as he asks, 'I wonder what happened to the man inside, the real old Texas me?'"
It is a wonderful song, from the 1969 album, "MENDOCINO."
I highly recommend the music of Doug Sahm, even if you're not recovering from heat exhaustion.
Oh, and in case you're wondering: The Austin Chronicle's No. 1 song with "Texas" in the title was Gene Autry's "Deep in the Heart of Texas." Naturally!