Category Archives: Music

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Little Games

I’ve had The Yardbirds on my mind since my friend Sam Jasper posed a trivia question about them on the Tweeter Tube. Here’s the question Jeopardy-style: Who are Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page?

Little Games is the fourth and final album recorded by the original band. Jimmy Page stepped forward as the sole lead guitar player but there was sonic confusion. The Yardbirds were evolving into a proto-Jam band live. This album was produced by Mickey Most who was best known for producing acts such as Herman and the Hermits. The result is something of a musical mess. So it goes.

As you know, I’m inordinately fond of psychedelic covers even when, as in this case, they don’t reflect the music.

Here’s the whole damn album:

Many A Mile To Freedom

Who knew one could be slammed while hunkering down at home? That’s where I find myself today. I’m working on a fairly tricky 13th Ward Rambler Column for the Bayou Brief and helping Dr. A research a new iPhone. Her current phone goes down to nothing when she does anything elaborate so it’s time for a change. I blame PD since it’s often caused by photographing that four-legged prima donna.

I did some good work at First Draft last week but one post hasn’t gotten quite as much love as the others. It’s feeling needy. If you haven’t already read it, check out Conspiracy Of Cretins, not Cretans, I like the latter.

On with today’s entry in our Songs For The Pandemic series. Every time we hear some Trumper whine about losing their liberties to the lockdown, Dr A and I say, “Freedom, man.” Those knuckleheads are among the cretins referred to above. Oy, just oy.

I had already planed to use one of Steve Winwood’s most underrated Traffic tunes, Many A Mile To Freedom, as a reminder that this shit is going to be around for awhile. Patience is in order.Then it occurred to me that Winwood has recorded two other outstanding songs with the word freedom in the title. Freedom, man.

I give you Steve Winwood’s Freedom Song Cycle. Here we go:

Since we’re glad to be free, I couldn’t resist posting the first two tracks from John Barleycorn Must Die. They belong together. Freedom, man.

I thought of this next song while watching Governor Whitmer deal with armed cretins in Michigan. Freedom, man.

Freedom, man.

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Friday Cocktail Hour: I Ain’t Drunk

We made it through another week more or less in one piece. Some New Orleans businesses are dipping their toes into the reopening. I’ll be on the inactive list until phase 2. I may not have the Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues but I’m cautious.

The Friday cocktail hour has arrived. We have three toe-tapping tippling tunes for your listening pleasure.

First, Albert Collins Ain’t Drunk, he’s just drinking. Thanks for clarifying that Iceman. This song is hot enough to melt your ice cubes.

This is in the nature of a rejoinder to the happy drunk in the first tune. The songs have one thing in common: a great guitarist. In this case, Robin Trower.

Finally, a song from Van Morrison’s Marin County period:

Cheers. Bottons up.

The last word goes to the Cartoon Rat Pack.

I’m Only Sleeping

I had another bout of insomnia last night. That’s a roundabout way of saying I lost the battle. That allows me to sneak a Yes reference into this post in a roundabout way. That’s a lose-win proposition in my book. Yawn.

We began our week of sleep songs with a Beatles tune. It’s appropriate to finish in the same power poppy manner. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

The opening lines of I’m Only Sleeping reflect how I felt when I awoke at 3:30 this morning, “When I wake up early in the morning. Lift my head, I’m still yawning.”

The tone of the song is cautiously optimistic. It embraces sleep and I need some. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

We have two versions of I’m Only Sleeping: the original and a cover by the great Rosanne Cash:

We have two more musical selections in this edition of Insomniac Theatre. First, wistfulness from Richard Manuel and The Band, followed by some no fucks to give bravado by Warren Zevon. It’s what WZ did best.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning

The current wave of insomnia is caused by fear and worries over the plague. It’s hard to sleep as the death toll mounts.  A more common reason for insomnia in popular songs is breaking up, which according to Neil Sedaka is hard to do.

Today on Insomniac Theatre we present three breakup songs. We begin with one of the saddest torch songs ever recorded by Frank Sinatra. In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning was written in 1955 by David Mann and Bob Hilliard. It became one of the Chairman of the Board’s signature songs and was the title track of one of his moodiest albums.

In what amounts to a neo-torch song, Tim Finn poses the eternal question: “How’m I gonna sleep without you?”

Finally, I’m not much of a crier or weeper but some of you are. We complete our breakup/insomnia song cycle with a number written by Difford and Tilbrook. It’s dedicated to everybody who’s crying in their sleep:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Pepper Pot

Jazz saxophonist Art Pepper had a string of album titles that punned on his first and last names including Modern Art and The Art Of Pepper. The goofiest one, 1959’s Pepper Pot, produced this goofy cover by Armand Acosta. Mercifully, the logs aren’t ablaze, they’re just artfully arrayed.

I’ll stop peppering you with puns and post the cover:

Here’s a later recording of the title track:

I’m So Tired

We haven’t broached the subject of sleep or lack thereof in this feature before. There’s no time like the present, which is why I’m posting this in the morning, not the afternoon. I hereby declare this Songs For The Pandemic Sleep Week. Insomniac Theatre is officially (officiously?) open for business.

I’ve long struggled with insomnia but at least I had a sleep pattern. The pandemic shot that to hell. I’m apt to wake up in the wee hours of the morning then need to read myself back to sleep. Mercifully, we have a guest room. I don’t like disturbing Dr A anymore than my restlessness already has. She usually has the gift of sleep.

I’ve also devised what one might call the political junkies’ version of counting sheep. I count Veeps.  In my wakefulness, I’ve done some research on the more obscure occupants of that office. I now know what George Clinton, Elbridge Gerry, William Rufus De Vane King, Henry Wilson, Thomas Hendricks, Garret Hobart, and James Sherman have in common. They died whilst Veep long before the 25th Amendment provided a way to appoint a new second banana. How’s that for sleep inducing trivia?

Back to the music. We have three power pop selections today beginning with this Beatles classic by John Lennon:

Our next insomniac selection comes from those crazy Canadian cutups, BNL. This time they ask a rhetorical question:

The answer is EVERYONE even the 7 Veeps who died in office. Imagine naming your son Elbridge, then don’t do it. I implore you.

Finally, it’s unclear if lullabies help anyone other than infants sleep but it couldn’t hurt. 10cc gets the last word:

Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the Veeps bite.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Snake Bite Love

Water Serpents II by Gustav Klimt

Perhaps I should have used Zachary Richard’s Snake Bite Love as our theme song while we were Festing In Place but I couldn’t let go of using Can’t Let Go last week. Besides, it’s never too late for a Zack Attack.

We have two versions of Snake Bite Love for your listening pleasure: the 1992 studio original and a 2009 live version from a Jazz Fest set I attended.

One more snake song before we slither to the break:

Ouch that hurt. Time to turn the virtual page.

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Friday Cocktail Hour: Drinking Again

Unless you’re a teetotaler or recovering alcoholic, the pandemic has either driven you to drink or you’re resisting its siren call. We’re lucky: we never run out of whiskey because people bring it as tribute during Carnival. Dr A makes the odd white wine run and I’m trying to limit my intake since booze lowers one’s immune system. We did, however, have Mint Juleps on un-Derby Day. I’m cautious, not a killjoy.

Drinking Again is a boozy torch song written by Johnny Mercer and Doris Tauber. Mercer was known as a drinking man as to Doris I’ve never kept taubers on her. Ouch. That was so bad it hurt.

We have three versions of this liquid tune for your cocktail hour listening pleasure: Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, and Frank Sinatra whose best friend’s initials were JD:

On with the music.

The last word goes to the cartoon Rat Pack:

Lonely Days

I usually hate sequels. Perhaps I should call this a follow-up to Monday’s Invisible Touch post instead. It’s dedicated to everyone out there who is riding out the pandemic on their own.

We have three lonely tunes for your listening pleasure. I suspect there will be more to come down the road. This shit is going is be with us for a long time.

Before they became known for the disco soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, the Bee Gees were a Beatlesque family band known for their tight harmonies.

Rumor has it that I’m a fanatical Smithereens fan. This song comes from their first album and it features Suzanne Vega on vocals.

I’ve always preferred Eric Carmen’s work with the Raspberries but this pop-rock torch song is the best thing he recorded as a solo artist:

Bayou Brief: Blast From The Past

My latest Bayou Brief column is online. This time, I write about Jazz Festing In Place and the early release of former New Orleans Mayor C Ray Nagin. The Nagin segment is called Loose Tongue, but a good alternate title would be The Walking Id Walks.

Speaking of New Orleans and walking, the last word goes to John Hiatt:

 

Album Cover Art Wednesday: The Fascinating World Of Electronic Music

This entry was inspired by a reader’s tweet in response to last week’s Dave Brubeck cover:

Thanks, Travis.

Kid Baltan and Tom Dissevelt were respected Dutch jazz musicians who were commissioned  to record this 1959 album with a great cover and a clunky title.

Here’s the whole damn album. It may have you dancing like Dieter on Sprockets. Warning: Never touch his monkey.

Invisible Touch

I feel terrible for people who are locked down alone. I know they manage to touch base with people in other ways, but they can’t touch anyone. I was raised to be a toucher and a hugger even though my mother was a Norwegian Lutheran from Wisconsin. She adapted quite successfully to Greek culture. But she never learned to yell. She left that to my father.

Today’s post is full of touchy tunes. Some are invisible, others are human still others warn you not to touch at all.

We begin with a song that was a monster hit in 1986. It feels oddly relevant in 2020:

Former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel wrote a song with lyrics that are ironic in our touchless times, I Have The Touch:

The time I like is the rush hour, ’cause I like the rush
The pushing of the people, I like it all so much
Such a mass of motion, do not know where it goes
I move with the movement and, I have the touch

It makes one almost miss rush hour; at least for folks like Dr. A who have a short commute:

If you’re missing a Human Touch, watch Bruce Springsteen sing about it as he rides the St. Charles streetcar:

Finally, another tune from The Boss that’s more in tune with these touchless, testy, and tetchy times, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch):

Saturday Odds & Sods: Can’t Let Go

Masks by Jackson Pollock

We had some first world problems at Adrastos World HQ this week: a cable box containing 60 episodes of Law & Order died. I battled the provider to a draw but losing the season-5 episodes with the perfect L&O cast of Orbach, Noth, Merkerson, Waterson, Hennessy, and Hill hurt:

Law & Order is my pandemic jam and it’s not currently on a streaming service. I can’t let go of the craving.Told ya this was a first world problem.

I hope that those of you who have read my previously unpublished law school mystery, Tongue In The Mail, enjoyed it. If you haven’t read it, give it a shot by clicking on this link. The serialization is dead, long live the serialization.

This week we have a trio of theme songs with the same title. Our first Can’t Let Go was written by Bryan Ferry for his 1978 solo album The Bride Stripped Bare. Here’s a double dose with the studio original and Roxy Music live:

Our second Can’t Let Go was written by Lucinda Williams for her classic 1998 album, Car Wheels On A Gravel Road:

Our final Can’t Let Go was written by Bill Meyers, Maurice White, and Allee Willis for Earth Wind & Fire’s 1979 album I Am.

I don’t know about you but I’m having a hard time letting go. Perhaps a jump to the break is in order.

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Friday Cocktail Hour

What’s a pandemic without a cocktail hour? My virtual version of that ritual involves posting songs about drinking and booze every Friday at Five O’clock sharp.

Since I don’t want to be accused of encouraging my readers to get drunk, we’ll begin this sub-feature of Songs For The Pandemic with tunes that discourage y’all from getting soused, blotto or what have you.

I realize that sounds like no fun at all, but it is. Trust me. Our first selection, Alcohol, was written by Ray Davies for the great 1971 Kinks album Muswell Hillbillies. Here’s the original studio recording and a boozy live version. I mean sober:

The second tune was written by Richard Thompson at around the same time. We have two versions of Down Where The Drunkards Roll one by Richard and Linda Thompson and another by the songwriter all by himself:

I originally planned to post the Los Lobos cover of Drunkards, but it’s been deleted from the YouTube. In lieu of that, a more celebratory drinking song:

The last word goes to Frank, Dino, and Sammy in boozy toon form:

Cuckoo Cocoon

For good or ill, the crazy has always been a part of American politics. From the Whiskey Rebellion to John Brown to the War of the Rebellion to the Mountain Meadows Massacre to the John Birch Society to the Nineties militia movement, it’s always been there. But the crazy has rarely had official sanction from a sitting president*. Of course, we never had an Oval One like President* Pennywise before.

The Kaiser of Chaos lives in a self-constructed fantasy world that makes past presidential bubbles look realistic in comparison:

In Trump’s case, it’s more like a cocoon. Insects in cocoons can and do change but Trump cannot. In his case, to borrow a phrase from Genesis, the band not the opening salvo of The Bible, it’s a cuckoo cocoon. The crazy is vacuum sealed in the Impeached Insult Comedian’s lizard brain.

Can you imagine any other Oval One demanding that a duly elected Governor give in to the demands of armed cretins?

Fuck you, Donald. There’s no reason for anyone to carry a weapon into any state capitol. It’s only okay in the cuckoo cocoon that you and your followers are trapped in. They’ll always be caterpillars, never butterflies

The crazy okayed by the Kaiser of Chaos is the logical culmination of decades of conservative ideology. In 1981, Ronald Reagan stated that “government is not the solution, it’s the problem.” In 1995, Bill Clinton caved to the 1994 mid-term results and declared “the era of big government is over.” Bill, of course, had his fingers crossed but it’s been all downhill from there.

The hatred of big guvmint has led to the crazy quilt approach the country is taking to the pandemic. Everyone is on their own. Chaos not only reigns, it rules. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos. And there are mini-Kaisers causing chaos across the land.

We shouldn’t let the libertarian right off the hook either. The Governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, thinks it’s a grand idea for meat packing plants to remain open free of government interference. That sort of thinking is common among Kochified libertarians who cloak avarice and selfishness with highfalutin rhetoric about freedom. The libertarians are trapped in the cuckoo cocoon with the rest of the right.

The libertarian delusion is as old as the Republic itself. There’s a raging dispute over who first said, “the best government is that which governs least.” It doesn’t matter who coined the phrase, it’s bullshit. Small government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem. Only a New Deal-style approach can bring us back from the Second Great Depression.  It’s time to escape the cage of the cuckoo cocoon.

I added the word cage so I could give Peter Gabriel era Genesis the last word with a live medley of Cuckoo Cocoon and In The Cage. The songs are back-to-back on The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, after all.

 

 

Too Close For Comfort

Social distancing ain’t easy. It’s a struggle even for those of us who believe in it. Somehow the Greeks have pulled it off with great aplomb. Of course, they got used to making sacrifices during their economic meltdown. Plus, it gave them a chance to show up the Italians, always a good thing. The Greeks know how to hold a grudge. It’s where I get it from.

I’m a city boy and we’re used to living on top of one another. The 6-foot rule is essential to safety but will feel weird once whatever passes for reopening happens. Better distant than dead.

Repeat after me: don’t get Too Close For Comfort.

Too Close For Comfort was written in 1956 by Jerry Bock, George David Weiss, and Larry Holofcener for the Broadway musical Mr. Wonderful, which is not about Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary even though he calls himself that. The song has nothing to do with the Ted Knight sitcom either. It’s much wittier than that.

We have versions of this song for the pandemic for your listening pleasure by three of my favorite singers: Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, and Ella Fitzgerald. One could even call them the Torrid Trio:

Lagniappe is always nice. The great Jazz saxophonist, Art Pepper, figures in the current season of Bosch. Here’s his instrumental take on today’s tune:

I Didn’t Know What Time It Was

A recurring theme of the pandemic lockdown is how hard it is to keep the days straight. The usual landmarks of work, school, and major events are absent. A Tuesday can feel much like a Saturday right now. So much for the title of this old movie:

Of course, today is Wednesday. I’m adrift in a timeless and tourist-less universe, y’all. Btw, I’d forgotten that a young Ian McShane was in the above movie as was Patricia Routledge who later played Hyancinth Bucket and Hetty Wainthrop. Enough teevee trivia…

In New Orleans, Jazz Fest 2020 has been cancelled outright but WWOZ-FM is running what it calls Festing In Place. It’s been great fun. The festivities resume tomorrow. Check it out at their web site. They’ve even replicated the legendary scheduling cubes.

Where the hell was I? Oh, yeah, today’s Songs From The Pandemic entry.  I guess I lost track of time. It happens daily…

I Didn’t Know What Time It Was was written by Duke Ellington’s peers Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the 1939 musical Too Many Girls. It’s been recorded too many times to count or is that countless times? I’m easily confused nowadays. What day is it? What time is it?

I Didn’t Know What Time It Was is a haunting mid-tempo ballad with typically witty lyrics by Larry Hart:

I didn’t know what day it was
You held my hand
Warm, like the month of May it was
And I’ll say it was grand

May is on the way. I somehow doubt Hart foresaw a lockdown but, as I like to say, you never can tell.

We have four versions of this Rodgers and Hart classic by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Taylor and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with the great Wayne Shorter on saxophone.

Take your time and listen to them all. Btw, it’s Wednesday and we’re not in Belgium but some Belgian beer would be nice.

Stephen Miller’s Song

Shakespeare At Dusk by Edward Hopper

While we’ve all had our eyes on the pandemic, despicable White House aide and self-hating Jew Stephen Miller has kept busy. You can detect his hand behind President* Pennywise’s immigration “ban.” It was, of course, devised to distract attention from the regime’s supremely inept pandemic response. They’ve tried lying their way through it and it’s blown up in their pasty, white faces or in Trump’s case, orange.

The other reason I’m plagued by thoughts about Miller is a Slate piece by Jeremy Stahl that reminds us of Miller’s racist malefactions. It’s part of a series about Trump administration malfeasance. This post is full of M-words. Here are two more: Miller is a malodorous motherfucker. That felt mighty, mighty good.

You’re probably wondering what I’m on about with the post title. It’s down to Richard Thompson-Edward Hopper month at Saturday Odds & Sods. I’ve been listening to RT’s back catalog a lot of late and one song in particular strikes me as relevant to this moment in time. Time is still on my mind as you’ll see later today. I’ve also thrown one more Hopper painting into the mix as the featured image. Never enough EH or RT.

The exact point-of-view of the 1979 Richard Thompson song, Civilisation, remains somewhat murky; something the songwriter is unlikely to clarify other than to state it doesn’t reflect his own political views. I’ve always interpreted it as a narrative tune with a far-right xenophobic protagonist spouting bigoted bile and nonsense about immigrants. Hence my idiosyncratic connection of it with far-right racist and xenophobic Trump aide, Stephen Miller. There’s occasionally method to my madness.

Civilisation is the opening track of the penultimate Richard and Linda Thompson album, Sunnyvista. It rocks like crazy and, as you might have gathered, has disturbing RT lyrics:

They’re not human, they’re with the Woolwich
They eat food I wouldn’t give to my dog
They’re hygienic, medicated
They wouldn’t live next door to no wog
They’re not human, where do they come from?
I don’t know what they’re living here for
They don’t belong here, on this planet
What are they doing in the house next door?

Wife’s tranquilized, milk’s pasteurized
Kid’s hypnotized by the t.v.
Dad’ll beat you, dog’ll eat you
They’ll treat you like family

All across the nation
It’s civilisation

They’re not human, they’ve got a new car
They’re going to polish it all the day long
Got a brand new rubber woman
They’re going to blow her up all the night long
They’re not human, it’s a double cross
They sold out for a handful of beads
They sold everything for nothing, just a
Headful of dreams and a handful of greed

Keep ’em happy, keep ’em drinking
Keep ’em laughing, no thinking
No dying, no weeping
Keep ’em hypnotized, keep ’em sleeping

All across the nation
It’s civilisation

Pack you off to school, get working
Get a steady job, no shirking
Get to sixty-five, get a handshake
You’re a vegetable with a heartache

All across the nation
It’s civilisation

I hear the sound of Stephen Miller clapping and nodding his head.

There’s an overly literal interpretive video of Civilisation on YouTube by a dude with a handle that I originally thought was German, Mehefinheulog. It turns out to be Welsh. He  uses images of movie space aliens and includes frequent nods to Sir Kenneth Clark’s genteel and erudite teevee series, Civilisation. RT’s protagonist may be wordy but he’s neither genteel nor erudite.

Stephen Miller and his ilk believe they’re stalwart defenders of Western civilization instead of malevolent bigots. I assume his family remains ashamed of him. They should be mortified. That’s the last M-word of this post.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Time Out

Time Out was a big hit in 1959 and thereafter because of Take Five. It was the only composition not by pianist/band leader Dave Brubeck. Reed man Paul Desmond took home the gold for Take Five. Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk is just as good.

There are many variations on S Neil Fujita’s cover art. This is one of them:

Here’s the whole damn album. It epitomizes the West Coast cool Jazz of that era. It’s a genuine classic: