Okay people, just one more day of nostalgia as we look at these old reviews I wrote.
I finally understand this pirate craze thanks to seeing the Disney film Pirates of the Caribbean a few weeks ago. I saw it in an interesting setting too, the University of Massachusetts on Halloween.
The film was preceded by a quite entertaining costume contest. A controversy erupted when a couple arrived totally naked, intending to compete as Adam and Eve, but they were not allowed to be contestants. The judges ruled that since this was a costume contest, and the couple had arrived stark nude, they technically had shown up without a costume and were therefore disqualified. The female, who was carrying an apple as all Eve's should, protested that the fruit constituted a costume. The judges disagreed, ruling that the apple was merely a prop, not a costume. On the other extreme a person showed up in a tuxedo, declaring himself to be a nudist on strike.
The worst costume was presented by a person who came onstage wearing nothing but a pair of pants and declared himself a "premature ejaculation" because "I just came in my pants." The audience booed, but with a smile on most faces as they did so. The winner of the grand prize (a color TV) was (surprise) someone dressed as a pirate. Second prize (a CD player) went to a football-player type in a black baby-doll teddy.
As for the movie itself I liked it like a little kid. After all the dreary nihilist dramas and frat-boy level farces that pass for entertainment out of Hollywood these days, it was refreshing to see something fun and exciting that had heroes you could cheer for and villains to sneer at. As for the fascinating performance of star Johnny Depp, I concur with the opinion of Roger Ebert who wrote of Depp that "his performance is original in its every atom. There has never been a pirate, or for that matter a human being, like this in any other movie." Of course I won't be participating in any "Talk Like a Pirate" days or any of the other cultish rituals that are forming around this film, but it definitely won me over and I suggest you go see it immediately. Especially if it's preceded by a costume contest.
Congratulations to the band Staind (above) whose members include people from Springfield, for having another number one album. Personally I'm mostly turned off by Staind's dreary music, which sounds to me as if it's geared to reflect the bitter feelings of the children of divorce, but hey, I like to see hometown boys do good in any field. People used to say that the Grateful Dead were the ugliest looking rock band, but that title has definitely been taken by the guys of Staind, and despite the music industry's increasingly image centered ways it doesn't seem to have hurt them any. In fact it may be part of their appeal, their ugliness makes them appear more "real" or something. Ironically, at the time Staind was struggling in the Valley music scene while trying to get started, few of the supposedly ultra-hip among the area scenesters recognized their potential. Just another example I guess of the fans trumping the critics.
Continuing to review albums over twenty years after their release, the hot disc in my CD player these days is Neal Young's Live Rust. Based on a San Francisco performance from late 1978, this record is about as good a live greatest hits album as you could hope for. Nearly all the classics from Neal Young's first ten years are here, representing an era of creativity that he was never quite able to match again.
Writers (and that means critics) tend to be drawn to Neal Young because of his great lyrics, which when they work are as poetic and emotionally effective as any songwriter around. Sometimes Neal overdoes the innocent kid pose (as on "I am a Child" or "Sugar Mountain") to the point where things can get a little sappy, but on the whole Young is a sophisticated and intelligent lyricist. Young's high-pitched voice can take some getting used to, but is very expressive. Jay Libardi had the best description of Neal Young's singing. He said Young's voice sounded "the way a cat would sing if it took up folk music."
There are sixteen cuts on this record, and not a dud among them (although the live versions of "Needle and the Damage Done" and "After the Goldrush" are less effective live than they were in the studio). The record offers the best version of the mystically powerful "Cortez the Killer," a highly romanticized depiction of the Incas which unexpectedly in the last line turns the destruction of that society into a metaphor for a failed relationship. "Cinnamon Girl," the ultimate garage band rave-up, is suitably grungy live and the ironic "Sedan Delivery" is just perfect. "Powderfinger" is one of the best anti-war songs ever written.
Now in his late 50's, Neal Young keeps attracting new fans, as an unlimited supply of young people keep bumping up against and discovering his work all over again. His range of musical styles is so wide that there's a Neal Young song for everyone no matter what your tastes. To constantly reinvent yourself for a new generation as many times as Neal Young has done has caused him to be ranked among the top ranks of musical artists, and Live Rust is a pretty convincing sampler of why he deserves it.
This album is pretty good, but in many ways a missed opportunity. When the Hot Tuna boys rejoined their Jefferson Airplane brethren for a tour in 1989, both the Airplane and Tuna were offered the chance by CBS’s Epic Records to release CD’s of new material. The Airplane album was a big success, with a hit single in Marty Balin’s syrupy but sincere “Summer of Love.” The Tuna release, however, quickly fell into obscurity, although it is still available from places like Amazon.com.
The biggest problem with this CD is that for a Hot Tuna album, there is too little actual Hot Tuna. Jorma Kaukonen writes only three of the record's fourteen songs. Those three, “It’s All right With Me,” "Ken Takes a Lude,” and “Happy Turtle Song” are, not surprisingly, the best songs on the album. The other tunes, written by various other people, have some virtues, but are inconsistently successful. A cover of the bombastic political tune, “Eve of Destruction,” works better than you’d think, but it’s an odd inclusion considering that Jorma often said that one of the reasons he left the Airplane was because he grew tired of their political songs.
This disc is an unfortunate example of too many cooks ruining the soup. Epic Records or whoever was in charge of this project should have just let Jorma and crew loose in the studio to do their own thing. This record has signs all over it of an attempt to alter the band’s style in order to reach a wider audience. Such attempts usually fail with any band, and with Hot Tuna, failure was a certainty. Just the same, it is an interesting failure, especially if you’re a Hot Tuna fan to begin with. If so, then you probably agree that anything Jorma Kaukonen does is worth owning.
Frank Zappa's Apostrophe'
I never expected to repurchase this silly album in CD format, but I guess I'm on some sort of nostalgia trip lately, buying up all the old albums I used to enjoy in my misspent youth. Frank Zappa is, to put it mildly, an acquired taste, and my taste for this album was acquired when I was in High School. Indeed, Zappa was almost a craze in my school, with everyone quoting catchy little phrases from his records ("Is that a real poncho, or is that a Sears poncho?") and feeling very much like a sophisticated insider compared to those who had never heard of Frank Zappa.
Listening to Apostrophe' today in my old age, I am at a loss as to what I thought was so cool about this record. Was it the sexual references? The toilet humor? The sheer stupidity of it all? Perhaps all of the above. To serious FZ fans, Apostrophe' is considered the beginning of a long artistic decline for Zappa. Many regard it as the end of his most creative period and the beginning of his self-destructive tendency to ruin his best and most sophisticated music by overlaying it with a lot of puerile humor best suited for immature 15 year olds (like me). Critics have long shook their heads sadly over Zappa's career, bemoaning that someone who was arguably a musical genius degraded his talent for nothing but cheap laughs and shallow rock stardom. And maybe in some ways they're right.
Dumb songs like "Stinkfoot" and "Yellow Snow" beg to be played once, laughed at, and then forgotten. Yet the fact remains that the musicianship, however low Zappa may have gone lyrically, is always first rate. In fact I find myself appreciating Apostrophe' from a purely musical perspective today in a way I never did or could have at the High School of Commerce. For all the insults thrown at him by the music critics, I believe that Zappa (who died tragically of cancer in 1993) is an artist whose reputation will only rise with the passage of time.
When Beatle George Harrison died I wrote this blurb on December 2, 2001.
I was actually a little too young to participate in Beatlemania. But the phenomenon was such that it permeated even the grammar school scene, and while I never had a Beatles lunchbox or anything, I still knew who the Beatles were and listened to their songs on WHYN, which was then the region’s premier Top 40 music station. Most of us fans whose age was in the single digits liked Paul best, perhaps because he looked the friendliest, or Ringo, because he was funny. When I got older I concluded that John was the real genius of the group, although Lennon's solo work suggested he needed Paul’s talent for melody to create his best work.
George I never really thought that much about, although his All Things Must Pass album was playing in my house a lot by virtue of older siblings and cousins. When it came out in a deluxe reissue last year listening to it as an adult I was surprised by the depth of feeling it had. I even wrote a review, for which I received brickbats from a self-proclaimed liberal who said that as an alleged conservative (anyone who knows me personally laughs when I’m called that) indignantly declared that I couldn’t possibly understand the Beatles, who apparently can only be grasped in their supreme significance by the highly evolved leftist mind. The sometimes stupidity of liberals I’ve learned to live with, but their arrogance I still can’t bear.
I think I speak for many people when I say I’m happy I have some fond Beatles memories, although apparently those memories come at a price. That price is to watch the real Beatles go, one by one, feeling older and sadder as each one dies. Rest easy, George. Hang in there, Paul and Ringo!
I laughed to read in the Springfield Republican some of the foolish comments made by Massachusetts Congressman Barney last weekend in Holyoke while he was being honored by local Democrats, as shown in this Bill Dwight photo of Barney and his boyfriend sharing a glance during Rep. John Olver's speech.
Here is the most brazen display of hypocricy that evening as reported in the newspaper article by Sandra Constantine:
Being a member of a political party is the best way to get things done, he told his audience, decrying the fact that elections are often decided by citizens who are not enrolled in one.
"The election is often in the hands of people who don't know what they are talking about. ... They criticize candidates for positions they don't hold," Frank said, putting down the types of unenrolled people who are polled in focus groups....
The congressman went on to declare that capitalism works best in partnership with the public sector.
"In 41 years I have never seen a tax cut put out a fire," Frank said. "If you are an honest businessman you need laws to protect you from dishonest competitors."
Wait a minute, show me one person who is calling for a tax cut to put out a fire, or anyone advocating the repeal of the laws against dishonest business practices. The answer is no one, so the person criticizing people for "positions they don't hold" is none other than Barney Frank himself.
From the Huffington Post:
Budding actor/rapper/whatever Levi Johnston has failed to deliver with his Playgirl shoot, and the magazine will NOT feature any full frontal photos of the Alaskan.
The news breaks on the same day Sarah Palin mentioned his "aspiring porn career" on Oprah.
In a statement posted on Gawker, spokesman Daniel Nardicio said the following about Levi and his manager:
"He did not give 'full-frontal' as his manager Tank Jones reported he would. We're thrilled with the photos we got, and are confident people will love them. Although there may be glimpses, we did not get full on frontal nudity."
Early Warning Sign
Hamp Truck Drummers
The abc40 crew at the Coats for Kids fundraiser in Springfield - Eric Fisher, Dave Madsen, Alex Shaw, Marci Izard, Elizabeth Corridan, Scott Coen and Ed Carroll.