Wednesday, November 22, 2017

If I was Bob Dylan, I would have decided, "Okay, I'm done" right after "Blood On The Tracks." But then 25 years after that, he writes what is arguably his greatest song, "Mississippi." I've loved "Mississippi" since it was first released on September 11, 2001. My store was about to open at 10AM, but I had already been there for two hours, getting all the new releases unboxed and priced. Then, the calls started coming in. "Did you hear?" "Did you see?" "Did you get the new Dylan?" It was surreal, alright. By the time the second plane hit and NYC was in the throes of full chaos and terror, there were people on the Upper West Side, who still hadn't a clue as to what was going down downtown. They'd been out walking their dogs or shopping at Fairway, news free. We had the radio tuned in to WINS, all news radio, so anyone walking into the shop was taken aback. No music was playing, which never happened.

"What's going on with the radio?" 
"Didn't you hear?" 
 "What?! REALLY?! OH MY GOD! I gotta make a call. Oh wait, can I get the new Dylan?"
We sold about 50 copies of "Love & Theft" to people in some state of neo-catatonia. The store became a saloon without the alcohol. Regulars and walk-ins, just hung around, not knowing what to do, or what to say, desperately trying to keep it together. They browsed without really looking. Some were just standing around in tears. And through it all, many were still choking out, "So how is it, the Dylan?"
Sixteen years and five records worth of standards later, it is easy to dismiss Bob Dylan. People could barely understand what he was saying when he was 40. At 76, it really is too much work to pay attention. But I could not let another string of NYC concerts go by without seeing him one more time. When I secured the ticket, I felt something take over my body, a spirit of calm. Nothing else seemed to matter at the moment because I knew I was going to see Bob Dylan sing "Blowin' In The Wind."
If you could take your eyes off of Bob just for a minute, you will see Charlie Sexton playing some truly amazing licks on lead guitar. If you could stop dwelling on the fact that "Tangled Up In Blue" sounded nothing at all like "Tangled Up In Blue," you would have noticed an absolute monster rhythm section of Tony Garnier on bass and George Recile on drums. And if you just breathe out every so often, you will have seen Bob Dylan, stand like Elvis while singing Tony Bennett's hit "Once Upon A Time" and then pose with his hand on his hip during the guitar solo, as if to say, "You wanna say something about this?" I watched in amazement and listened with both my head and heart, to "It Ain't Me Babe" and "Desolation Row" and "Love Sick" and "Autumn Fucking Leaves!" NO, Bob! I don't wanna say anything. You keep on doing what you want. I'm good.

Back to "Mississippi" for a moment. I thought I knew that song and maybe I wasn't truly listening in the days after it was released. Those were some days. But last week, something happened. Something made me look up the lyrics and read along. And I was shaken, yet again. I keep reading, as if "Mississippi" is the new Serenity Prayer. At this moment, I can't think of any song more beautiful, more honest, more profound.

Back to last night's performance, if you're thinking, "Why bother?" Think again. It's Bob Dylan. I'd go every night for a month, if I could.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Every step of the way we walk the line
Your days are numbered, so are mine
Time is pilin’ up, we struggle and we scrape,
We’re all boxed in, nowhere to escape

City’s just a jungle; more games to play
Trapped in the heart of it, tryin' to get away
I was raised in the country, I been workin’ in the town
I been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down

Got nothin' for you, I had nothin' before
Don’t even have anything for myself anymore
Sky full of fire, pain pourin’ down
Nothing you can sell me, I’ll see you around

All my powers of expression and thoughts so sublime
Could never do you justice in reason or rhyme
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Well, the devil’s in the alley, mule’s in the stall
Say anything you wanna, I have heard it all
I was thinkin’ 'bout the things that Rosie said
I was dreaming I was sleepin' in Rosie’s bed

Walkin' through the leaves, falling from the trees
Feelin' like a stranger nobody sees
So many things that we never will undo
I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too

Some people will offer you their hand and some won’t
Last night I knew you, tonight I don’t
I need somethin’ strong to distract my mind
I’m gonna look at you ’til my eyes go blind

Well I got here followin' the southern star
I crossed that river just to be where you are
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Well my ship’s been split to splinters and it’s sinkin' fast
I’m drownin’ in the poison, got no future, got no past
But my heart is not weary, it’s light and it’s free
I’ve got nothin’ but affection for all those who’ve sailed with me

Everybody movin’ if they ain’t already there
Everybody got to move somewhere
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interestin' right about now

My clothes are wet, tight on my skin
Not as tight as the corner that I painted myself in
I know that fortune is waitin’ to be kind
So give me your hand and say you’ll be mine

Well, the emptiness is endless, cold as the clay
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

And E.G. Marshall as "The Senator"

We continue the week with another collaboration. It is by sheer coincidence that I chose to write about Ian Hunter and Queen, and not due to some pre-planned "collaborators week on Burning Wood."

From Hunter's second solo release, "All American Alien Boy," this is "You Nearly Did Me In" featuring Queen on backing vocals.

I have nothing against Ian Hunter's big, brooding ballads. He's damn good at it. But, even as a long time fan, I can recognize how one might seem like another. They all follow the same formula, from the early Mott ballads right up to his most recent ones, 40 years later. Many are interchangeable. Hell, two on the same record are about the same thing. ("The Ballad Of Mott" and "Hymn For The Dudes," both on the "Mott" record.) But, "You Nearly Did Me In" stands out, and I give most of the credit to the distinct sound of Queen's voices on the chorus.

This got the wheels spinning.

Have there been other guest appearances, that were NOT duets, which made such obvious differences to the songs?

Queen was riding high on "A Night At The Opera" at the time of the Hunter recording, so in certain circles, this was a huge deal.

One of the first songs that comes to mind is "Desperados Under The Eaves" from the Warren Zevon record of 1976. Backing vocals were by The Gentlemen Boys," which consisted of Jackson Browne, JD Souther, Jorge Calderon and Carl Wilson. But a) those guys sang on every record out of L.A. in the seventies and b) it's not quite the same as "Backing Vocals by The Beatles" on "We Love You" by The Rolling Stones. (And also, The Beatles backing vocals didn't make the record better or worse, and most can't even tell it's them.)

I am interested in what you come up with.

Monday, November 13, 2017

New Cars Smell, Take Two

From 2006, please enjoy "Not Tonight" by The New Cars, a song with a slew of hooks, a great guitar solo, funny lyrics and a good beat you can dance to.

Apparently, that wasn't enough in 2006. While the single got some airplay, and the band did get on late night TV, and a tour had begun, though canceled due to Elliot Easton's broken collarbone, The New Cars are mostly remembered with a contemptuous snort. I think Ric Ocasek called for a fatwa on Todd Rundgren, for taking over lead vocals, though apparently Ocasek had no issues with anyone else embarking on this ride. The one record released by The New Cars, which also featured Rundgren sidemen Kasim Sulton and Prairie Prince taking over for the late Ben Orr and retired David Robinson, featured three newly written tunes, and a live set of old Cars favorites. Rundgren did his best Ocasek and the band itself was more than adequate. The record sold a paltry by 2006 standards, 16,000 units.

So why the hate?

Good band, good replacements, good record, great single. Were The Cars so sacred that even the remaining original members, the lead guitarist and keyboardist, both integral to The Cars sound, should be forbidden to create a new project?

Why am I bringing this up almost a dozen years after the fact?

Because I really enjoyed that Elliot Easton solo record and was listening to the first Cars record, which made me think of "Not Tonight," which I hadn't heard since 2006. And it really is a fantastic record. The other two Rundgren/Easton/Hawkes tracks were pretty good, too. I wouldn't have minded one more record out of this band.

I am always fascinated when good music gets criticized for everything but the music itself.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Songs Of The Week, 2017: 11/4-11/10

My Love - Dion
Ordinary Dream- Electric Light Orchestra
What's A Matter Baby- Ellen Foley
R U 4 Real- Dr. John
Church Underground- Elvis Costello
What I Think She Sees- Del Amitri
I Hope I Didn't Just Give Away The Ending- New Radicals


Friday, November 10, 2017

Weekend Mix/ Some Girls

St Vincent reminded me that my record collection is largely a sausage party. All my Weekend Mixes, with the exception of Fairport Convention have reflected this.

The last 12 months, what with "Access Hollywood", pussy hats, Harvey Weinstein, and #me too, have provided a lot of opportunity for reflection.

I don't really ever "fit in" anywhere, and particularly with "the guys", unless we're holding musical instruments, and even then it's always more interesting when women are involved.

I've always been too shy and insecure to pull a "Weinstein" on anyone, and besides I don't know why a person would treat another that way.

Joni Mitchell was my first girlfriend. A room mate had "Court And Spark", and because I'd heard "Raised On Robbery" on the radio, I put it on, studying the lyrics.
I fell hard for her.
It wasn't long before I had "Ladies Of The Canyon", and "Blue".

"Carey" is one my all-time favorite songs, and I'll never tire of it even though I could type out the lyrics in their entirety from memory right now. "The wind is in from Africa," etc.

For your pleasure I've included the original of "Twisted", by Lambert, Hendricks, And Ross.

The Slits "Cut", (1979) hit me like a ton of bricks. It probably gets more play around here than anything else from that era, including the Clash and Pistols.

My parents had a Capitol Records compilation which kicked off with Ella Mae Morse's "Cow Cow Boogie". It was the second single released by the label in 1942 and their first number one/million seller. She sang it in a single take, thinking it was a rehearsal.

Jackie DeShannon and "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" will always have a space in my parking lot.

La Roux and Janelle Monae were originally found with my teenage daughter in mind, but she prefers K-Pop.

Elyse Weinberg's "Greasepaint Smile"(1969) is a long lost gem featuring production by David Briggs, with help from Neil Young, JD Souther, and a young Nils Lofgren.

Cristina, and Lizzy Mercier Descloux were part of New York's "Mutant Disco" scene of the early '80's.

This version of Fiona Apples "Window" was held hostage by Sony and rerecorded for "Extraordinary Machine".

Laurie Anderson's "Mr Sharkey" is mistitled (Mr Heartbreak) and is the grand finale.

Cakelike's "Bum Leg" is a bonus track that cracks me up every time.

Eight decades are represented here. It's not a complete overview of anything, or even a "Greatest Hits", but a bunch of tunes which indicate what kind of girls I like. All kinds.

Sugar, spice, and everything nice. Indeed.

Some Girls

Some Girls, too

Put a little love in your heart.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thursday's Lost Gem: Elliot Easton

In 1985, Elliot Easton released his one and only solo record, "Change No Change." I loved The Cars first two records, but by 1985, I didn't care enough to care about a record by their lead guitar player, except that all the songs on "Change No Change" were written with Jules Shear, who I did care about and continue to care about in 2017. Not only that, Jules sings backing vocals on the whole thing.

As per usual, I was looking for something else, one of those old Warner Brothers "Loss Leaders" LPs, and found the Easton album in the box instead. I hadn't heard it in 32 years, so out of the garage and into the house it came.  (This might fall into the category of TMI, but we are all family here. I call the records in my garage the "minor leagues" and the records in my house the "major leagues." I am always sending some down and bringing some up. Shut up.)

"Change No Change" is a gem, especially Side One, where there isn't a weak track to be found. While I have always loved Easton's guitar playing...I mean, has this guy ever played a solo that wasn't tasty?...I am thankful that his solo record sounds more like a lost Jules Shear record and not a continuation of The Cars. Everything from the melodies to the vocal phrasing to the harmonies, it's all Jules.

The track above is pop heaven. The track below has a patented Easton solo. "Change No Change" might play a full season in the house.