Category Archives: Art

Saturday Odds & Sods: Town Without Pity

Cover art for Paul Eluard’s Reflections by Max Ernst.

Extreme heat is the price we’ve paid for missing out on Hurricane Dorian. As cranky as I am, I’m glad this heat-bringing high is warding off any tropical activity. I won’t miss it when it’s gone but I’m glad it’s here as Dorian creeps up the east coast. That storm is a relentless motherfucker. The fucker should return to the attic from whence it came.

Drew Brees ate my Friday morning. I hope he buttons his lip and keeps his foot out of his mouth until after Monday’s game.

The featured image is a collage done by the great Max Ernst for a book by his fellow surrealist, Paul Eluard. You may have noticed that I love surrealist art. I use it a lot in this space and have even threatened to post nothing but Ernst and Magritte featured images for Odds & Sods. I’ve also used an Ernst image for my new Bayou Brief column, 13th Ward Rambler.

This week’s theme song was written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for the 1961 Kirk Douglas film, Town Without Pity.  I’d never seen the movie until last weekend. It’s a cross between film noir, Italian neo-realism, German expressionism, and a Cassavetes flick. I liked it a lot and give it 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

We have three versions of Town Without Pity for your listening pleasure: the Gene Pitney original, Stray Cats, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. My boy Brian knows a hidden treasure when he hears one.

Let’s escape the bleak mean streets of a German town without pity by remorselessly jumping to the break.

Continue reading

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Pedro Bell, R.I.P.

Pedro Bell’s cover artwork for George Clinton and his family of funk bands helped create their mythology. Bell called his art “scartoons,” I think of it as funk surrealism.

Pedro Bell died recently at the age of 69. The best tribute to an artist is to feature their work. Here are three of Bell’s album covers:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Salome

There ain’t no femme more fatale than Salome. I posted Aubrey Beardsley’s take last Saturday. Let’s get operatic with a trio of covers for recordings of the Richard Strauss opera, Salome, whose libretto is a German translation of Oscar Wilde’s play. The aformentioned Beardsley illustration was done for the book of the play but not for the opera. The mind reels.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Maynard Dixon/Dane Coolidge

To go along with the Happy Trails post, I searched for “western paperback covers” and stumbled into some early 20th Century dust jackets. Dane Coolidge was a California writer of genre fiction; mostly Westerns. His first two books featured covers by the great painter Maynard Dixon who got first billing in the post title because I’m very familiar with his work. The only Coolidge whose work I’m familiar with is Calvin and I’m not a fan.

Hidden Water was published in 1910 and The Texican in 1911. Sometimes it’s fun to fall down an internet rabbit hole.

 

Barr Letter Reading List

It’s peak pollen season in New Orleans. There was also a 5-alarm fire a few miles away. The result is horrible air quality, a death grip sinus headache and red, red eyes. I’ve already medicated, which is why I’m keeping this short.

I have a new Fog of Scandal meme, a Magritte-like image, The Man and the Sea by Giuseppe Maiorana, I love the image of umbrellas dropping in the fog. Substitute shoes for umbrellas, you can catch my drift if you can see it amid the fog of scandal.

I may not have words of wisdom for you but these folks do:

David Corn reminds us that even if there was no finding of criminal conspiracy there were many strands of co-operation between Team Trump and Russian intelligence.

Franklin Foer points out the accomplishments of  the Mueller probe.

Mark Joseph Stern says I told you so about Bill Barr.

Jed Shugerman wonders why the Barr letter quoted nary a complete sentence from the Mueller Report.

The man who wrote the DOJ special counsel guidelines, Neal Katyal, calls for the immediate release of the full report.

Former Obama White House counsel, Robert Bauer, is concerned that this result will make Trump even more brazen. Me too.

Bob Bauer gets the last word with this passage from his NYT piece:

But the Mueller report marked a low point for more substantive norms of presidential conduct. It shows that a demagogic president like Donald Trump can devalue or even depart radically from key norms, just short of committing chargeable crimes, so long as he operates mostly and brazenly in full public view. For a demagogue, shamelessness is its own reward.

Such a president can have openly, actively encouraged and welcomed foreign government support for his political campaigns, and his campaign can reinforce the point in direct communications with that government’s representatives.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Red Sails In The Sunset

Red Sails In The Sunset was Midnight Oil’s commercial breakthrough in Australia. It was also the first time they charted in the US. The Oils got their foot in the door with this 1984 release but they kicked it in with their next album, Diesel and Dust, which is when they set proverbial beds afire.

Red Sails In The Sunset was recorded in Tokyo and features a cover by noted Japanese  artist Tsunehisa Kimura. Later releases of the album included the title and band name at the top of the cover.

Here are the original Australian LP cover and back cover:

Are you ready to rock? Here’s the CD re-release of this fine album:

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Lou Marchetti

Every once and awhile I like to honor the illustrators of vintage pulp paperbacks. This week, we’re featuring two covers by Lou Marchetti whose daughter Louise has assembled a terrific website in honor of her late father.

The tagline for The Mugger has given me an earworm so Genesis gets the last word:

Not Everything Sucks

This photo archive exists and is being circulated around again: 

For the Documerica Project (1971-1977), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired freelance photographers to capture images relating to environmental problems, EPA activities, and everyday life in the 1970s.

John H. White was one of nearly one hundred photographers hired for DOCUMERICA. His photographs captured the spirit and struggle of the African-American community in Chicago, Illinois in the early 70’s.

John White is a national treasure and these images of a Chicago past make it seem so alive and vital.

A.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Sidney Bechet

New Orleans born and bred woodwind genius Sidney Bechet lived a large portion of his life in exile in Paris. And I’m not talking Paris, Texas, which was as segregated as New Orleans. Bechet left the Other Paris to Wim Wenders and Ry Cooder.

We have two early album covers this week. They’re not vinyl LPs, but 10″ shellac albums. The first one dates from 1948 and features a cover by  Jim Flora:

The second ten-incher dates from 1952 and features art by Burt Goldblatt:

Since the albums aren’t online in their entirety, here are two contemporaneous tracks:

Dispiriting

Photograph via the Failing New York Times

I’m a whiskey drinker be it Bourbon, sour mash, rye. I’m not gonna lie: I like it all whether you spell it with an E or not. One could even consider this a mash note to distilleries, domestic and foreign: I’m fond of Irish, Scottish, and Canadian whiskies as well. I’ll take some more Tullamore, please.

That’s why I’m dispirited by the news that American distilleries are suffering from the Teetotaler-in-Chief’s “easy to win” trade war; hereinafter ETWTW. Last Friday, China joined the European Union in slapping stiff tariffs on American whiskey.

The Insult Comedian is too busy bloviating about his stupid wall to notice that the ETWTW is biting two red states in the butt: bigly. Big Whiskey is centered in Kentucky and Tennessee but the ETWTW is hurting craft distilleries as well.

This old-fashioned trade war is like a whiskey sour with too much lemon juice. Where the hell are Chinless Mitch and Aqua Buddha in all of this? The former is too busy handling the Kaiser of Chaos and the latter is too busy blowing him to make a stand for whiskey. They’ve truly missed the Maker’s Mark. As to the Tennessee delegation, Lamar Alexander is retiring and Marsha Blackburn is too busy importing Bachmannism to the Senate to stand up for Jack Daniel’s. Sinatra would be horrified:

One of the ironies of Tariff Man Trump’s ETWTW is that it’s hurting red state America the most. Ask a soybean farmer. Here’s a little known fact: soybeans are the biggest cash crop in the Gret Stet of Louisiana and those folks are getting hosed by the ETWTW with China. Believe me.

Enough soybean palaver, back to whiskey. Since puns are big among wineries, I think it’s past time for distillers to follow suit. Here’s my suggestion:

In addition to being a helluva pun, it’s a reference to the minimalist modernist Dutch art movement of the 1920’s, De Stijl, which means The Style in Kentucky and Tennessee, y’all. The image is Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie. It’s a winner, I tell ya.

The last word goes to the Dubliners:

How come nobody told me that there was a Thin Lizzy version of Whiskey In The Jar? I guess the boys were out of town that week:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Tangled Up In Blue

The Large Blue Horses by Franz Marc.

The weather has been wild and wacky in New Orleans. It was 80 degrees last weekend, then it plummeted to a day time high of 50 a mere two days later. It’s like being an extra in The Pit and The Pendulum. I have no idea what that means but it sounds good.

We had some car trouble this week. We convinced ourselves we might have major electrical issues. It turned out the car needed a new battery. Whew. Dr. A has named the new used car Hildy, after Rosalind Russell’s character in His Girl Friday. Neither Cary Grant nor Ralph Bellamy were consulted.

Am I allowed to brag? I promise not to go all Insult Comedian on your asses. The response to my Neelyisms: Translating Louisiana’s Junior Senator piece has been very favorable indeed. Thanks, y’all. I hope it will further one of my quirkier causes: getting people to stop calling him by his real name instead of my nickname for him. Repeat after me:  In politics, there’s only one John Kennedy, and his middle initial was F, not N. Just call him Neely.

This week’s theme song was written by Bob Dylan for his great 1975 album Blood on the Tracks. Tangled Up In Blue is one of my favorite Dylan tunes. It’s an almost foolproof song, which is why it has been covered so many times.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Dylan’s original, a 2017 cover by Joan Osborne, and a live version by the Jerry Garcia Band.

Now that we’re all tangled up, let’s jump to the break. I hope I can find my blue ripcord.

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Running On Empty

Carnival Tryptich by Max Beckmann

It’s been an uneasy week in the Big Easy. There’s much outrage at the local utility company, Entergy, for hiring actors to attend City Council meetings. The company has made it worse by continuing to lie about it. It’s called Astroturfing, it’s not illegal it’s just sleazy. The more Entergy lies, the longer the story persists. Lying seems to be contagious in the age of Trump. Knock it off, y’all.

In other Gret Stet news, we’re voting on a constitutional amendment to end non-unanimous jury verdicts. Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states that have this system and we’re in a race for repeal. The odds are good that voters will end the practice next Tuesday: there’s broad bi-partisan support for the change. It’s good when the Gret Stet good guys win one. In fact, it’s great. Hopefully, that Tony the Tiger-ish sentiment will help LSU when they play Alabama tonight. Geaux Tigers.

This week’s theme song, Running On Empty, was written and recorded by Jackson Browne in 1977. It’s been used in two movies: Forrest Gump and gave Sidney Lumet’s great 1988 movie its title. We’ll have more about *that* Running On Empty after the jump.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure. Both feature brilliant lap steel playing by the great David Lindley of whom I’ll have more to say at the end of the post. Holy previews, Batman.

We may be low on gas but there’s enough in the tank to jump to the break.

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Late In The Evening

Father Mississippi by Walter Inglis Anderson.

It’s finally showing signs of cooling off in New Orleans even if it appears to be a cruel autumnal tease. The cool front helped keep Hurricane Michael away from us. It was a beast of a storm that battered the Florida panhandle and provoked PTSD flashbacks in the New Orleans area. Best wishes to everyone in the affected areas.

In more savory local news, Advocate food writer Ian McNulty wrote a piece about the surfeit of new restaurants in the city. Ian is worried that we’re losing the thread with so many eateries dependent on the tourist trade. New Orleans didn’t become a great food city with tourist traps but with restaurants serving locals. One Oceana Grill is enough. Just ask Gordon Ramsay:

You didn’t have to take that so personally, Chef Ramsay. Piss off out of my post.

This week’s theme song is appropriate because I usually post Saturday Odds & Sods at the stroke of midnight. Some of my regular readers look for it then. One would hope they’d have something better to do.

Paul Simon wrote Late In The Evening in 1980 for his One-Trick Pony album. Simon also wrote and acted in a movie of the same title, which sank without a trace. I always thought horses could swim…

We have two versions for your listening pleasure. The original hit single followed by a scorching hot live version from 1992’s Born At The Right Time tour.

I used a painting by New Orleans/Ocean Springs, MS artist Walter Anderson as the featured image because he famously tied himself to a tree during Hurricane Betsy. We grow them eccentric in these parts. If things had gone wrong, it would have given a whole new meaning to the term tie-dyed.  If that pun doesn’t make you want to jump to the break, nothing will.

Continue reading

Album Cover Art Wednesday: The Velvet Underground & Nico

The Velvet Underground & Nico was born in controversy. There have been lawsuits up the wazoo over the years as well as Andy Warhol’s laughable claim to have produced the record. He knew nothing about the recording process so the engineers and John Cale did the heavy lifting. The album’s Wikipedia entry does an excellent job of explaining the gory details.

The cover is legendary but has always left me cold and I like Warhol. This was not one of his better efforts. I happen to prefer green bananas.

The album was a commercial failure but an artistic triumph. I’m not sure what I think of Warhol’s album related documentary, A Symphony of Sound, but here it is anyway:

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Sweet Dreams

Any Eye For A View by Paul Fleet.

I vowed not to complain about the heat this week. It’s always hot in New Orleans in July, after all. Besides, much of the world is having a heat wave so we’re not alone. Suffice it to say that even people who like warm weather are complaining about it. I’m trying my best to be stoical in the face of it all. I’m not sure if I’ll succeed in this but who the hell wants to hear a grown man whine about the humidity?

A big local story was the anointment of Zach Strief as the new play-by-play announcer of the New Orleans Saints. He has huge shoes to fill: Jim Henderson was to the Saints and their fans what Vin Scully was to the Dodgers. I’m skeptical that the inexperienced Strief is up to the job: he’s a recently retired Saints offensive lineman, and while he’s a bright, articulate guy, he’s unqualified to be a play-by-announcer.  Of course, this is the age of the unqualified.

Our theme songs this week are variations on a dreamy themey. Patsy Cline’s Sweet Dreams was written by Don Gibson who recorded it 8 years before Patsy. Her version is the one we remember. Sweet Dreams was also the title of the fabulous Jessica Lange starring 1985 bio-pic.

Yes’ Sweet Dreams comes from their second album, Time and a Word. They were still finding their way in the musical world at that point.

Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) was a monster hit for the Eurythmics in 1983. There was an epidemic of teenage girls who cut their hair very short because they wanted to be Annie Lennox. Who could blame them?

That concludes this foray to Disambiguation City. It’s time to awaken from your dreams, sweet or otherwise, and jump to the break.

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Dimming Of The Day

New Orleans Window by Lee Friedlander.

Happy Bastille Day. I’m not planning on storming anything, it’s too damn hot for that. I *am* spending some time in the heat by attending San Fermin New Orleans. It’s our zany version of the running of the bulls in which the bulls are rollergirls with plastic bats. I’m not running, I’m drinking mimosas, eating donuts, and hanging out with Dr. A, our friend Cait, the child army, and whoever else shows up. It’s a sweaty, fun, and deeply silly time.

I predicted that the president* would make an ass of himself in the UK and he has done so. He gave an inflammatory interview to the Murdoch owned Sun wherein he praised Boris Johnson, criticized Theresa May, bashed immigrants, and wished people would call the country England again. He apparently re-annexed Ireland while he was at it. The next day, he denied attacking May and called The Sun “fake news” even though it’s owned by his pal Rupert. It was just another day in Trump World.

The featured image is one of my favorite photographs from the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Lee Friedlander in Louisiana exhibit. The New York based photographer has a passion for New Orleans, which is on display at NOMA until August 12th.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson for Pour Down Like Silver the third album he and then wife Linda recorded together. We have three versions for your listening pleasure. The original version followed by covers by the Neville Brothers and Bonnie Raitt. RT plays on the latter recording.

Now that we’re feeling a bit on the dim side,  let’s brighten things up by jumping to the break.

Continue reading

Pulp Fiction Thursday: James Meese

James Meese week continues at First Draft. He’s something of an internet man of mystery. I wasn’t able to learn much about him other than he was as short-lived as he was as prolific as a pulp fiction illustrator. I’ll just have to let his work speak for itself:

I don’t want to give you the impression Meese never did covers for some of the more popular crime fictionistas. Here are two he did for Agatha Christie paperbacks:

Saturday Odds & Sods: In The Still Of The Night

Contrasting Sounds by Wasilly Kandinsky.

It’s been an eventful week in New Orleans. The city celebrated its 300th anniversary and inaugurated our first woman mayor. I expressed my reservations about Mayor LaToya Cantrell on ye olde tweeter tube:

The slogans included “We are woke” and “We will be intentional.” I’m uncertain if that’s intentional grounding or an intentional walk. I dislike the latter baseball tactic as much as exclamation points. I still wish the new mayor well. Her propensity to mangle the language is good for the satire business, and there’s no business like giving a politician the business. I believe in taking care of business, every day, every way.

This week’s theme song, In The Still Of The Night, was written by Cole Porter in 1937 for the MGM movie musical, Rosalie. It was first sung by Nelson Eddy who was in a shit ton of hokey costume movie operettas with Jeanette MacDonald. I am not a fan of the duo but I am a die-hard Cole Porter fan as evinced by the frequent appearance of his work as Odds & Sods theme songs. I considered counting them but I’m feeling as lazy as the president* today. Where did all my executive time go?

We have two versions of the Porter classic for your entertainment. First, the elegant jazz-pop baritone Billy Eckstine aka the Voice of God.

Second, the Neville Brothers featuring some gorgeous sax playing by Charles Neville. He was an acquaintance of mine. Charles died recently at the age of 79. He was a lovely man with a kind word for everyone he met.

It’s time for a journey to Disambiguation City. Fred Parris wrote *his* In The Still Of The Night for his doo-wop group The Five Satins in 1956.

Yeah, I know, Boyz II Men also had a hit with the Parrisian song but I’m not going there. Instead, let’s jump to the break. Now where the hell did I put my parachute?

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Go Your Own Way

High Summer, World of Light by Gillian Ayres.

 The April weather in New Orleans has been so fabulous that I’m convinced we’ll pay for it this summer. It’s been cool, sunny, and not muggy. It’s something to hold on during the dog days of summer when it gets hot enough to melt your face and various extremities.

Jazz Fest started yesterday. I’ve gone from loving it to feeling conflicted. I rarely object to change but most of the changes they’ve made post-K have been, well, objectionable. The promoters and their apologists continue to tell us it’s a community oriented festival but they’ve priced most locals out. Oh well, enough bitching. Here’s a quick reminder of the Krewe of Spank’s 2017 theme, which says it all:

This week’s theme song was written by Lindsey Buckingham for Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 masterpiece Rumors. It subsequently became the closing number at most of their shows. We have three versions for your listening pleasure. First, the original studio track followed by a scorching 1997 live version. I believe it melted my face the first time I heard it. Finally, an orchestral interpretation by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Fleetwood Mac has been in the news of late with the announcement of their umpteenth lineup change. Lindsey is out for now. In a backhand compliment to his talent, they’re replacing him with two great musicians: Neil Finn of Crowded House and Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers. If this were a baseball trade, it would be a good one. I’m a diehard fan of both Neil and Mike, so I’m fascinated to hear Fleetwood Mac Mach 4444.

Now that I’ve geeked out, let’s jump to the break. I hope First Draft doesn’t trade me for a blogger to be named later.

Continue reading

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Scorching Beauty

Iron Butterfly had an odd career. They were sui generis: one-hit FM radio wonders. Their droning, very long song In-A-Gadda-Da Vida was an underground sensation. They broke up in 1971 and reformed to make Scorching Beauty with only one original member.

The 1975 Iron Butterfly reunion went nowhere but the cover by Drew Struzan is epic. The artist is much more interesting than Scorching Beauty. In addition to album cover artistry, he had a long career as a movie poster artist. It’s time to quote his Wikipedia entry:

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Struzan produced poster work for such films as Blade RunnerThe ThingThe Cannonball Run, the Police Academy series, Back to the FutureE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Muppet MovieComing to AmericaFirst BloodRisky BusinessD.C. CabStroker Ace*batteries not includedAn American Tail, and The Goonies.

This was an interesting rabbit hole to go down. At some point I’ll have to do a post dedicated to Struzan’s other album cover art but let’s start small with Scorching Beauty:

Note that the butterfly’s face is inspired by the robot in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.