Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 10/28/08

As we do every day, we add another to our list of the top 666 songs of alltime (the whole thing up to this point is at top right). Or the most counterintuitive songs of alltime, if you will. It’s an attempt to have some fun here rather than any crazy attempt to be definitive – jazz and classical fans will have to wait til we figure out some way of giving those genres their due. Til then, here’s #637:

Marianne Faithfull – The Ballad of Lucy Jordan

This harrowing, if dated, synthed-out 1980 new wave-era tale of a woman slowly losing it was written by none other than children’s book author Shel Silverstein! It resonates even more if you recall the song playing over the opening scene in Dusan Makavejev’s greatest film, Montenegro, Susan Anspach staring into the water and wondering if she should jump. The lp version is on Broken English; if you’re willing to settle for a mp3, rip one from one of the usual places

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Prima Ballerina at Lakeside, NYC 10/25/08

This was the debut show for Tammy Faye Starlite’s latest rock project, in this case a New York Dolls cover band. As a solo performer, the insurgent actress/comedienne plays a gut-bustingly funny born-again, washed-up, recently rehabbed country singer, in the process shooting daggers at all things rightwing and stupid (much like the Inbreeds, whose Friday night show we just reviewed). She also has three rock acts. In addition to this group, the Mike Hunt Band – her first one – is a Stones cover band (she plays Mick). The Stay-At-Homes are possibly the world’s only Runaways cover band (she’s Cherie Currie). While both groups actually make an effort to be musically competent, they basically serve as an excuse for Tammy to do improv. There is no one funnier, not even John Monteith.

 

Prima Ballerina – if you know the Dolls’ songs at all, you get the reference –  is the Stay-At-Homes playing Dolls songs. Tammy had names for everyone in the band: Sit N Spin frontwoman/guitarist Heidi Lieb was Heidi Thunders; rhythm player Jill Richmond was Jillvain Jillvain; drummer Linda Pitmon (from her husband Steve Wynn’s band, the Baseball Project and Smack Dab) was Nolinda; what Lieb’s bandmate, bassist Mony Falcone was evades the memory (although Tammy had plenty of vitriol for her and bass players in general). Another woman stood in for Todd Rundgren on keys on a few songs.

 

“I’m Tammy Jo,” Tammy said in her best Queens accent. “This swong’s really about about a stwop on the Ell Oy Aw Aw,” she told the crowd as the band launched into a decently careening version of Babylon. The recurrent joke of the night revolved around universal healthcare: that was the premise of Pills, Tammy explained. Jet Boy had to do with Barack Obama (big round of applause) hopefully “not getting killed before he comes out of the clouds.” Stranded in the Jungle, she revealed, was a cover of a Vietnam-era soul song by the 60s group the Jayhawks (“Not the alt-country band, you know, the guy who married Victoria Williams. THEY SUCK!!!”).

 

When they reached the bridge during Trash, Tammy accosted a bewildered guy sitting at one of the front tables: “When you’re hanging out in Chelsea, how you call your loverboy?” When it came time to wrap up the set, she explained that during her tenure in the Ridiculous Theatre Company, Charles Ludlam had been her mentor, and that he had been known to accuse people of having a personality crisis. Dedicating the song to the one John McCain’s been having, the band did a spirited, serviceable version of what was the closest thing the Dolls ever had to a top 40 hit. Memo to Ms. Rundgren: you ought to try that piano hook, it’s easy and it really makes the song. So, what a great weekend –  funny band, intense band, funny band. Prima Ballerina’s next show is at the Cutting Room sometime in November: watch this space for details.

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Haale at Drom, NYC 10/25/08

This was the drums-and-cello set: that Bronx-born Persian-American rocker Haale Gafori and her band could still be as rivertingly powerful as they were under the circumstances speaks volumes. Drom is typically one of New York’s best-sounding rooms, and throughout their Saturday night show, Haale’s vocals, Brent Arnold’s cello and Matt Kilmer’s percussion were crystal-clear in the mix. Trouble was, her guitar was almost totally inaudible. Haale’s music makes frequent use of open tunings and big washes of sound that ring out for what feels like minutes on end, with many of the songs building to ecstatic crescendos. Good thing the cello was so high in the mix, in fact so loud that there were overtones flying from the strings, otherwise this would have been for all intents and purposes a hip-hop show.

 

But the material and Haale’s voice simply refused to be denied. The sound was dark, saturnine and all-enveloping, something akin to an amalgam of smoldering, early PJ Harvey, fiery electric Randi Russo, and Iranian traditional song. “We just spent a week in Brazil,” she told the crowd. “It was like silk…I’ve never heard such a tapestry of birds and insects.” Beginning in Persian, switching to English and then back again, she was a fearless force, her soulful alto soaring over Arnold’s dark, atmospheric washes as Kilmer played a neat three-on-four beat. The band came out swinging with two big anthems from their new, aptly titled cd No Ceiling, eventually bringing it down a bit with the tongue-in-cheek yet similarly eerie Off-Duty Fortune Teller. Haale then introduced the trance-rocker Paratrooper by explaining that when Jimi Hendrix was in the Army, he’d listen to the drone of the airplane engine, vowing to figure out how to get that same sound out of his guitar.

 

Of the other songs in the set, Home Again and the title track to the new cd had the most straightforward rock feel, by contrast to the hypnotic slow burn of the rest of the material. The trio closed with the fiery epic Ay Dar Shekasteh, Kilmer capping the crescendos with a massive splash on the gong that coiled serpent-like above his kit.

 

It would have been nice to stick around to hear Iranian hip-hop artist Yas and then Brooklyn reggae/dancehall outfit Jah Dan & Noble Society, but they had a hard act to follow, and there was another stop on the night’s agenda.

 

 

 

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Inbreeds at Freddy’s, Brooklyn NY 10/24/08

One of the funniest shows of the year by one of New York’s funniest bands. The Inbreeds’ raison d’etre is poking fun at the right wing, usually (but not always) with parodies of country songs. This show saw the quartet broadening their comedic spectrum considerably, although the jokes were as good as always. Characteristically, there was a lot of tongue-in-cheek homoerotic banter between the two singers, Neil the drummer and Chris the guitarist (who also doubled ably on banjo on a couple of numbers), playing the part of macho hicks with a thing for double entendre…and each other. One of the reasons why this band is so funny is that they know their source material so well: the humor is pretty savage, but it’s obvious they have an affinity for the music. After a bizarre opening tune called Party Box (a New Jersey thing, maybe? Hard to figure out what that was all about), Chris went deep into his low baritone for Becky, a parody of a cheating song. “Every night I whisper words of love into your ear,” the philandering husband tells his wife, “Becky only gets to hear me grunt.”

 

The high point of the night was Unfurled. It’s a howl, a dead-on spoof of a patriotic song. In this one, the singer looks forward to the day when “there’s a Fourth of July parade all over the world,” that all the children “with their blue eyes and golden curls” can look forward to. And they’ll be doing their patriotic duty, working for less than the Chinese in a new golden era where a 40-hour work week gets you part-time pay, where people get picked up by the cops if they look anything like “the enemy in the war.”

 

Neil was all excited about an important event coming up in the near future, specifically, Halloween. So the band launched into a strange epic called Pumpkin Man, accordionist Annette Kudrak’s tongue-in-cheek gypsy melody eerily swirling behind the stentorian vocals. A hooded figure came out of the audience and handed a scroll to Chris, who slowly unwound it, blowing what seemed a whole bottle’s worth of baby powder from inside it. “May I?” he asked sarcastically.

 

“Just don’t blow any more shit off of it,” implored an audience member as the smell of Johnson & Johnson permeated the room. Chris then recited something arcane that made no sense at all and then the band wrapped it up.

 

Finally, Kudrak put down her accordion and came out front with a keytar slung over her shoulder like a guitar, in a wooden case with a handle fashioned to look like a horse’s head. As she swayed and launched into a warm, pretty series of chords, power-ballad style, she couldn’t help cracking a smile as Chris sang another romantic song, Clydesdale Lady, about the big filly with whom he’d like to create a race of centaurs. Another of the evening’s high points was Homeland, a simple recitation of the names of cities and towns from around the country (nice to see King of Prussia followed by Kennebunkport) that goes on and on, hypnotically, until all of a sudden you realize that the names they’re using have suddenly become pretty crazy (yes, they did namecheck Intercourse, PA). The phony outlaw epic Peckerwood County Justice, a staple of their live show, was as boisterously amusing as always. The night’s only drawback was when their closer Puppydog Amen (which has only two words, “puppydog amen”) went on and on for what seemed five minutes while some annoying drunk yahoo in the back wouldn’t stop whistling: a minute and maybe just one false ending is all that one needs, max.

 

As well-loved as the Inbreeds are as a live band, where they really ought to be is in a Broadway theatre. With the way the political climate has changed, the Inbreeds’ satire could be the next Urinetown. Any ambitious producers out there?

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment