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Monday, March 31, 2014

Catching up, part one

Some real life (let's call it) stuff over the last couple of weeks have kept me from my already erratic blogging schedule. Here's the first part of stuff I've been meaning to write about.

Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing) – Benny Goodman Orchestra from Live at Carnegie Hall (1938)

Pretty much used to signify “old people music” these days, give it a close listen sometime, it's quite a bit more modern than you'd expect, especially once we move part the point where the original 78 ends (around the 3:45 mark). After a tenor sax solos over punchy brass and Krupa's tribal syncopations, some tight canons in a somewhat Arabic sounding scale weave their way along to a rapid fire trumpet solo by Harry James. After an ensemble passage, Goodman solos again with active interplay with Jess Stacy on piano and Krupa's drums. The playing is freer and more improvisatory than the big bands of that time are usually given credit for (especially the white ones). Stacy's solo in particular is revelatory. And Krupa's drumming, constantly coming up with subtle shifts and variations of the famous pounding introduction, fuels this performance as the climax of a triumphant evening.

The Price of Paradise – Minutemen from 3-Way Tie for Last

D. Boon's lament for “puppets of flesh and bone” past and future, from the last album before his tragic van accident. Children should be made to sing this on Memorial Day

Passacaglia for Orchestra, op.1 by Anton Webern as performed by Herbert von Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker

Karajan's early seventies survey of the Second Viennese School was an attempt to bring these composers fully in to the mainstream. It's hard not to get caught up in these lush sweeping performances, especially of Webern's Op. 1 where he presents his ideas in long lines before he developed his more fragmented style of orchestration (the long lines are still there, but are spread around the orchestra.)

Even Now by the Call, from Reconciled

Back in the day (that would be the mid-to-late '90's), I heard some, um, radio personality refer to that horrible band Live as “the American U2”. (I felt “the Wal-Mart Pearl Jam” was more like it) Not that I'd want to hang that albatross on them, as their work deserves recognition on it's own merit, but that description is much more suited to the Call. They have the dramatic sweep, the religious longing and soaring vocals to draw the comparison, and this, the finale to their fourth album, would hold it's own against anything on the contemporaneous Joshua Tree. The dated synthesizer sounds are the only red pencil mark against the Reconciled LP, something their more rootsier later work seems to tacitly acknowledge. The opening song Everywhere I Go also makes for a fine trivia question as it backing vocals are delivered by the same trio as In Your Eyes (Call lead singer Michael Been, Mr. Gabriel and Simple Minds' Jim Kerr). As I was working my way alphabetically through a shelf of vinyl to digitize, I was anticipating this album. Alas, the day before I got to it Been died from a heart attack at the age of 60.

Solo Beatles songs about Ireland

Nothing quite sums up the Lennon/McCartney dichotomy quite like their dueling songs about the Troubles from early in their respective solo careers, aside from the fact that they have dueling songs about the Troubles. (Now that I think about it, they had dueling songs on just about everything at this time.)

McCartney's “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” with it's perfect antecedent/consequent construction and obsequious lyrics like “Great Britain you are tremendous, nobody knows like me. But, really, what are you doing in the land across the sea?”. Lennon, on the other hand starts off almost too flip with “If you had the luck of the Irish, you'd be sorry and wish you were dead, you'd wish you were English instead” but then lays in hard with “a land of beauty and wonder was raped by the British brigand, Goddamn” and “why the hell are the English there anyway, as they kill with God on their side [hi, Bob] Blame it all on the kids and the IRA, as the bastards commit genocide”. These were both played on DJ Therese's blessedly blarney-free St. Patrick's Day show on WFMU, worth listening to in total.

More catching up soon.

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