Answering The Tough Questions
Why do so many Oliver Stone Greeks sound British?
by Thomas Schulte
Outsight brings to light non-mainstream music, film, books, art, ideas and opinions.
Published, somewhere, monthly since July 1991. Feel free to re-print this article.
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News And Views
Blues Cruise Sets Sail January 22, 2005
For the fourth annual trip of The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, Tito Jackson, of The Jackson 5 will be the special guest. The cruise hits the high seas on January 22, 2005 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida destined for the Eastern Caribbean. The five-star Holland America Zuiderdam sails seven days all the while hosting performances by rhythm and blues talent. Acts include Taj Mahal, Dr. John, Susan Tedeschi, Shemekia Copeland, The Derek Trucks Band, Tommy Castro, Bernard Allison, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, Chubby Carrier, and more. There will be over sixty live performances from sixteen acts. Regular Blues Cruise headliner Taj Mahal exclaims, “It’s a Blues Festival where everyone has a Backstage Pass!” Cruise stops include Grand Turk, Tortola and St. Maarten. For more information visit http://www.BluesCruise.com or call 1-888-BLUESIN (258-3746).
Democracy In Action
I encourage you to think about urging your Representatives to support bills for instant runoff voting and abolishing the Electoral College. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. has introduced two bills into the House of Representatives. House Resolution 5293 would require states to conduct general elections for Federal office using an instant runoff voting system. House Joint Resolution 109 would amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College and provide for direct election of the president by majority vote. You can easily find out your Congressman at http://www.house.gov/ by typing in your zip code for their Web page. Endorsement of this voting method has already happened in Ferndale, MI.
Belgium’s Demolition Derby records keeps the punk rock flag flying with 12″ vinyl LPs that run the gamut from garage rock to old school punk of the American and European varieties. Coming out of Japan is Jet Boys. The band’s new Demolition Derby release, Jet Patrol, taps into the spirited, fun punk rock typified by East Coast NYC groups like New York Dolls and Ramones. This can really be heard on such pop punk numbers as “5-5-9”, “Fine Without You” and “Good Boyfriend”. On Suggested For Mature Audiences from sister label Nitro, The Chronics mine the same vein, finding nuggets of power pop hooks but they leave on these rough gems the encrusted ore of garage and hard rock. This makes the cover of “T.V. Eye” (The Stooges) fit nicely. Encouraging rebellion in a nation of radio listeners is Smash the Radio (Demolition Derby) by Morticia’s Lovers. The group delivers wild, unhinged garage rock in a snotty punk style.
My top 10 for this year in alphabetical order, with an ungrammatical overview in five words:
Luis Garay Percussion World Sacumba (Percumba Records) • World percussion virtuoso, playful spirit
Steve Hancoff The Single Petal Of A Rose (Out of Time Music Co.) • Duke Ellington for Solo Guitar
Jonas Hellborg/Shawn Lane/Apt. Q-258 Time is the Enemy (Bardo Records) • Adventurous post-fusion live jazz-rock album
Hank Locklin Generations in Song (Slewfoot Records) • The legendary country tenor anew
Nellie McKay Get Away from Me (Columbia Records) • Nineteen years old jazz-pop genius
Mudville The Glory of Man is not in Vogue (Slurry Records) • Layers of meaning to unravel
Otis Taylor Double V (Telarc) • Potent blues story-songs, blunt blues
Claudia Villela Dreamtales (Adventure Music) • Fleck on Villela: “pure music”
Tom Waits Real Gone (ANTI-) • Superlative success, an eerie ode
Rob Wasserman Trilogy (Rounder) • “Trioly” a thing of beauty
Amos Garrett left his native Detroit to first work a guitar professionally in Toronto. He later crossed paths with Ian and Sylvia as a member of the country-rock ensemble Great Speckled Bird. His guitar playing was made famous in Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight at the Oasis” and Anne Murray’s “Snowbird.” Stony Plain Records just released two titles from this still active fret master. First is the reissue of The Return of the Formerly Brothers, which earned a Juno Award when it first came out in 1989. This recording is with Gene Taylor (The Blasters, Fabulous Thunderbirds) and Doug Sahm (Texas Tornados). An interview with Sahm is one of two bonus tracks, the other being the song “Louis Riel” about an aboriginal Canadian hung by the government. From this classic roots rock recording it is a straight line to the fun and spirited new acoustic solo album from Garret, Acoustic Album. Here, like listening to a Leo Kottke or John Fahey album, we get to revel in generous helpings of Garrett’s distinctive playing. Garrett selected a slew of classic tunes from Hoagy Carmichael, Jelly Roll Morton and Leadbelly along with new Garrett material to make this an entertaining instant classic from a real country-pop guitar icon.
Reviews Of Things To Read
Signal to Noise
POB 585, Winooski, VT 05404
Subtitled “The Journal of Improvised & Experimental Music”, this quarter-inch edition explores the outer reaches of jazz, extemporaneous, unconventional, pioneering, and progressive music. The magazine is broken down into two sections. First are a series of articles then there is a well-stocked pantry of in-depth reviews. The cover story is the socially relevant “The Artist’s Role in Waging Peace” in roundtable fashion with discussion by William Parker, Eugene Chadbourne, Dave Burrell and more “on the topic of music and social change.” Well, at the risk of sounding politically incorrect, I dare say there is more interest in the overview of The Fugs, an article on pioneer Eugene McDaniels and the inventor of the Long String Instrument, Ellen Fullman. The reviews are in three sections: live, CD and book. This is a good, informative read and a map to help chart explorations of new music. (4)
Tones & Notes
Light Living Library, POB 190, Philomath, OR 97370
This photocopied and stapled digest is a grass roots zine of music theory and practice. The issue is dedicated to an assault on the implementation of traditional musical notation and offers two alternative notations. I still prefer trad, but the editors’ observations of the confusing and deficient aspects of the accepted notation are accurate. Examples of the suggested alternatives and reader correspondence on how to improve musical notation round out the issue. (3)
On this CD and DVD combination, Pierre-André Arcand presents an audio disc of his rugged little electroacoustic pieces to which we can imagine a world of images. The video CD that accompanies (playable in DVD players) is a set of wholly different works to which images are attached. These images tend to be basic, blurry, patterned and repetitive. What these sounds need, for the experimental and challenging content is surreal, unsettling visions like something the Brothers Quay would conceive of to match these mechanical rhythms and nonmusical sounds. When someone takes the MTV flash and drama of a 2-minute video film with the jarring, freeing exercise of sonic mutation like this, then we will see into a world of new art. (3)
Laibach offers fascist chic and dramatically features a black cross as if it were a swastika while promoting the idea of a “unified Germany”. All this may make it easy to dismiss the group. Or, it may make it easier to dismiss Laibach rather then understand whether it is a neo-fascist assault, or a neo-fascist joke. It may be best to understand the industrial group’s roots in the artificial and multi-cultural post-WW II state of Yugoslavia. An understanding of that country’s creation and disintegration is helpful. During that time Laibach was banned even to the point it was prohibited from using its own name. Consider all these facts while taking in the great industrial music of the Anthems CD that includes the group’s own “Tanz Mit Laibach” with “Das Spielt Aus” and several covers, such as “Sympathy for the Devil”, Europe’s “Final Countdown” and more. The choice of such covers further muddies the waters. “God is God” (from Jesus Christ Superstar), “Final Countdown”, “Geburt Einer Nation” (a German-language remake of Queen’s “One Vision”), and “In The Army Now” are on both the double-CD Anthems and presented as videos on Laibach. (Anthems is a career retrospective with a second disc of remix versions.) However, Laibach’s overt message of a unified Europe with strong cultural ties to America certainly has great currency. However, Laibach chooses unsettling symbolism and seems to have disturbing ease in taking the songs mentioned as well as such pleasant tunes as “Across the Universe” (The Beatles) and fit them nicely into a malevolent vision of Reich-like worship of industry, war and conquest with crypto-Christian occult flavor. But, then again, the gothic castle decadence portrayed in the video for “Sympathy for the Devil” and the use of a buisine-like medieval trumpet in “Geburt Einer Nation” is all rather hard not to laugh at (with?). Of course, vocalist Milan Fras’ unnaturally stentorian and Teutonic delivery keeps it from seeming too much of a joke. Offering an explanation of all this is A Film About Wat on the Laibach DVD. Afterward, I find myself only more confused by the group’s universalistic and apocalypse-obsessed philosophical musings. One thing I can agree to, I find these audio and video releases as entertaining and thought-provoking as all releases from the mock-authoritarian rebels that pick over the cultural offal of the 20th Century like found object artists to confront us with new creations from our own trash. (4.5)
Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight
This rich bevy of smashing Hendrix material is bursting at the seams even at the same time it is spread out over two audio CDs and a DVD. This all strives to document the monumental and historical event that was Hendrix’s appearance at the third and final Isle of Wight festival. This was a time when Hendrix could look back to and perform songs like “Dolly Dagger” and “Foxey Lady” in order to build the audience up to receive the new experiments of “Ezy Ryder” and “In From the Storm”. The DVD includes concert footage, making-of elements and scene-setting shots of the rebellious outsiders without tickets and one jubilant local. This includes much breezy commentary from Jimi onstage as he plays fast and loose with descriptions of those gathered and world events. (4.5)
This album of jazz and beat poetry expression is a great mix of instrumental pieces and spoken word over free jazz. At times, Ford flirts dangerously with smooth jazz without ever committing that sin. Sometimes he goes from that extreme to free jazz all in one tune, as in “Playing with Fire”. Playing with fire indeed. Still, Ford maintains a balance and keeps it all hot and well seasoned with the challenging spices of confrontational words as on “Free Men Name Themselves”. (4)
The Chinese finger trap is a toy made of straw that is a loosely woven tube about a half-inch in diameter and five inches long. A player inserts an index finger into each end. When the player tries to pull out his fingers the tube contracts and traps his fingers. The harder he pulls, the tighter the trap becomes. The only way to release the trapped fingers is to bring the hands together. The tube then expands enough for the fingers to be gently withdrawn. Tom Waits’ unique, rough and apocalyptic stylism at times threatens to be his own finger trap. The album opener “Top of the Hill” is so clamorous, primitive and dark as to be a threatening storm cloud of Waits’ own destruction in the sound and fury of sonic nihilism. However, Tom quickly follows up that attention-getting overture to this American gothic opus with the gentle handclasp of melody and misery in the sea shanty-like “Hoist that Rag”. “How’s it Gonna End” is another superlative success as an eerie ode to hopeless destitution. Tom Waits generally avoids all social and topical commentary in his gritty little story songs, but it is hard not to detect an exasperated currency in, “Tomorrow” a song about a soldier writing home. It contains such reflective lines as “Trying to say is don’t they pray/To the same God that we do?/And tell me how does God/Choose, whose prayers does he/Refuse…” (5)
Live Free or Die
This is a new studio album from D.O.A., but some of the best tracks on the album are newly recorded version of earlier material: “Agony and the Ecstasy” and “The Concrete Beach”. Speaking of re-recording songs, there is a trio of anti-war classics here: “Masters of War” (Bob Dylan), “Bad Moon Risin'” (Creedence Clearwater Revival) and Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction”. All in all, this album is nineteen tracks of punk rock bucking the system. (3)
Sudden Death Records: www.suddendeath.com
The Muffins is akin to such progressive groups as Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Henry Cow or Soft Machine. Here the core art-jazz-rock quartet is augmented with nearly twice as many guest musicians. Two of those are saxophone alumni of the Sun Ra Arkestra (Marshall Allen, Knoel Scott). This is a second career offering by The Muffins, which disbanded in 1981 after nearly seven years of a successful progressive rock career. This is the second album since the group’s reemergence and it is a monster album of jazz-rock and progressive art rock. Instead of being a time machine to clever Canterbury cacophony, this is a tautly and cleanly executed post-rock opus that has a greater presence in the camp of ’60s forward-looking jazz groups like Art Ensemble of Chicago than it has in the RIO descendants of the National Health-Magma scene. (4.5)
Ethan Daniel Davidson
Better Living Through Creative Selling EP
This six-song EP is a collection of early recordings and songs from his latest recording. Using sudden breaks and thick, heavy beats Davidson relays hip and aware neo-folk songs such as the surprise-laden tale of a World War II Jewish freedom fighter called “Terrorist”. The collection ends with a cover of Woody Guthrie’s “Tom Joad”. (3.5)
Béla Fleck characterized Claudia Villela as “pure music” and that is was seems to flow effortlessly and naturally from her on this album of her wordless voice backed by the piano of Kenny Werner. This CD is completely improvised as the pair went into the studio with no prepared material. It is also completely beautiful. The disembodied music unfettered and without prepared structure floats above and away and can thus transport the listener. (5)
Adventure Music: www.Adventure-Music.com
Benny and The Jets Band
This 6-song EP is a music Xmas card from Benny and The Jets Band to you. The album is full of sonic frolic as it is a smiling, joking, dare I say jovial seasons greets. The opening mock-live “X-mas Boogie” sets the mood: rocking and hilarious. “X-mas Wish” is a reggae Xmas tune that I wish I had known about years ago when I was substituting on a reggae radio show on Xmas Eve and a caller requested Xmas music, but I did not want to break form too much. The album is full of funny asides and soundbites, like the “brrr” in the background of “… what fun it is to ride/In a one horse open sleigh…” on “X-mas Bells”. The real standout track here, though, is the yuletide genius of “X-mas Dittie”. It is, with sax solo, a medley of “Who Do You Love?”, “Hey, Bo Diddley” as “Hey, Santa Clause” and “Hush Little Baby (The Mockingbird Song)” with its lyrics of buying diamond rings and more. (4)
Benny and the Jets: www.Bennyandthejets.com
It’s a Team Mint Xmas, Vol. 2!
This compilation has a lot of fun Xmas pop, like the instrumental “Señor Santa Él Es el Monstruo” (Atomic 7) and even more fun the damaged pop of such gems from It’s a Team Mint Xmas, Vol. 1 as “I Wanna Kiss You This Christmas” (David Carswell and Megan Barnes) and “Who Are You?” from The Evaporators. However, the real rum in the eggnog here is that this compendium is a stocking stuffed with spiteful little ditties about the dark side of the holidays, loathing the very season itself and wanting to do something else. If, like me, you would rather skip Christmas this year, feel the empathy in “Daddy’s Drinking Up Our Christmas” (John Guliak covering Commander Cody), “Santa Claus Likes Rich Kids Better” (young and sexy), “X-mas is Past” (The Tennessee Twin), “Lonely Christmas” (The Smugglers) and the deceptively named “The Christmas Song” from Carolyn Mark. Mint donates $3 from each CD to Stephen Lewis Foundation, the foundation set up by the United Nation Secretary General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. (4.5)
Mint Records: www.mintrecs.com