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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

We are going to have to wait for the album of standards, but what we are getting instead is pretty exciting: the "Complete" Basement Tapes. Finally we will be able to read Greil Marcus' Invisible Republic and listen to the music he's writing about. I doubt that I will understand Invisible Republic any better, but that's my problem. People who have heard all of these songs-- who, for all I know may just be Greil Marcus*, say that it is mostly all pretty great, and  essential. It's funny that some of the immediate response seems to be mild complaining that this edition of the Bootleg Series is not the unreleased Blood on the Tracks stuff; most of that has seen official release here and there already.

* And Jann Wenner, too. When The Basement Tapes was originally released in 1975 it hit number 7 on the Billboard chart. Dylan expressed surprise, since the material had been widely bootlegged on the Great White Wonder: "I thought everybody already had those songs."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Funny about Burger King: it seems to exist as much as a sort of a corporate investment vehicle as it does as a hamburger chain. This latest thing-- merging with Tim Horton's and moving to Canada-- is just one more complex maneuver, and it makes me wonder if that's not why it's never a place I feel like getting a burger. I guess the first Burger King I ate at was when the company was owned by Pillsbury. That would have been in the late 60's, and by that time it was already on its third set of owners. Pilsbury was purchased by Grand Metropolitan, which was then merged with Guinness in 1997, which sold it three years later to TPG Capital. Apparently Bain Capital was or was supposed to be part of that deal. TPG sold it to 3G Capital, which took it private after it was acquired in 2010. What I guess this means is if a restaurant is seen more often in the Transactions section of the Wall Street Journal than in the food section of local newspapers the chances are the burgers in that restaurant are going to taste like the Transactions section of the Wall Street Journal. Or, in the case of Burger King, like the burnt Transactions section of the Wall Street Journal.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What are the criteria for my Personal Hit Single of The Summer? Well, I suppose they are somewhat amorphous. Rule #1: When it comes on the car radio you either turn it up (if you are riding shotgun) or yell, "Turn that up!" (if you are driving, or in the back). I'm flexible about whether it has to be an actual summer of that summer release-- but it should be new to me for the summer it is supposed to be representing. Meghan Trainer's "All About That Bass" has been working for me whenever I've heard it, and that has been happening with increasing frequency.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I am generally suspicious of this sort of project: Bob Dylan's publisher approached T-Bone Burnett with a box of Bob Dylan lyrics from 1967 and asked if he was interested in assembling an album from them. Mermaid Avenue was okay-- Billy Bragg and Wilco's stab at doing something similar with a box of Woody Guthrie lyrics-- and there are other, similar projects, but still. Besides, I like Bob Dylan's melodies as much as I like the lyrics-- maybe more. Also, when did Marcus Mumford become a go-to guy? I mean, we can assume Burnett's good faith and competence, but a couple of hit songs with a banjo in them isn't the same as a credential in my book. Elvis Costello I'm okay with, and I've liked Rhiannon Giddens since we went to the Carolina Chocolate Drops show and she chewed out the guy who was yelling for "Cornbread and Buttermilk". That's the New Minstrelsy, right there, the performer telling the audience, "Yeah, yeah-- we're going to stick to our set list, so STFU."It isn't just music where projects like this bother me: Robert B. Parker respected Raymond Chandler, but Poodle Springs, Parker's attempt at finishing an unfinished Chandler novel had all its seams showing, and was a horrible, lurching monster. Or, in film, have a look at A.I., Steven Speilberg's movie from a Stanley Kubrick project. I suppose the work is the point, and the work deserves to be judged on its merits in every instance, but if that's the case than why does the artistic provenance of these projects seem to be at the center of their reason for being?

So that's where I'm coming from on this, and I've got to say that I just played the attached little number three times straight through, and really like it. Is it new old Bob Dylan music? Couldn't tell you, but it's a pretty good song.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Nobody was really taking  Rick Perry  seriously, were they? A Texas governor stupider than Bush?

Friday, August 15, 2014

My listening took an odd turn this week: inspired by this video, recommended by Captain X, I started out listening to a bunch of Jeff Beck. Here's the core problem with Jeff Beck albums: everything that's not Jeff Beck. (I except from this both Truth and Beck-ola, for reasons to be discussed infra). This problem is why Blow by Blow and Wired are great, and Jeff Beck: Live with the Jan Hammer Group is not great, notwithstanding the fact that the latter draws from the former for nearly all of its material. If I wanted a Jan Hammer album I'd file my own commitment papers and take a nice Bellevue vacation. Thinking about Jeff Beck always makes me think about the path not taken. Jeff split the Yardbirds because he didn't care for the more pop direction the band was taking. (That's one version anyway.) He went on to record the two aforesaid really good sets of hard English blooze which feature his guitar to good advantage, and Rod Stewart to excellent advantage. Jimmy Paige carried on with the Yardbirds, but what was originally going to be called "The New Yardbirds" become something else altogether. Meanwhile, Steve Marriott, apparently tiring of the pop direction the Small Faces were moving in,  rang up Peter Frampton and formed Humble Pie. In retrospect Peter Frampton might seem like an odd choice to butch things up, but Humble Pie was absolutely a departure from the blues based rock that most English bands had been working from up to that point. Everyone seemed to be looking for a heavier sound, but it seems to me that only Paige and Led Zeppelin actually found what they were after, something beyond the blues. If you took any of the constituent pieces from any of these bands and shuffled the tiles I wonder what you would have come up with? What would Rod Stewart have sounded like fronting Zep? What if Beck had found John Bonham first? 

Notably missing in this account is the other Yardbirds guy, Eric Clapton, and as I think about the departure rock made from the blues and towards "hard rock" in the period encompassing roughly 1968-1972 it seems to me that the reason Clapton avoided that particular rabbit hole is that he'd already been down it, with Cream....


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Used to be that the delis in Penn Station would have big tubs filled with ice and tall cans of beer, including Ballantine Pale Ale. I can't recall how much they were-- $2 bucks maybe?-- but you'd grab a can out of the tub, and hand the guy your beer and your money. He'd drop the can into a paper bag, and you'd hustle off to catch your train. You barely had to break your stride as you moved from the A train to the LIRR platform, and when you got on the train, out of the steambath of Penn Station you'd crack open your book, and pop open your icy cold Ballantine and your day was instantly improved. It was a lot hoppier than anything else I can recall back then, and delicious. I wonder if it will still seem that way? I will certainly be open to trying.

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