Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 6/24/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Wednesday’s song is #399:

John Cougar Mellencamp – Rain on the Scarecrow

Too bad the heartland rocker’s fallen on hard times, sinking to doing tv commercials instead of music because back in the 80s and 90s he was sort of a poor man’s Springsteen, putting out a several albums of smartly crafted highway rock. Driven by one of the juiciest bass hooks in history, this is one of his best songs, a snarling Reagan-era broadside about a farmer losing his land to foreclosure. Title track from an otherwise forgettable 1985 lp frequently found in the dollar bins. Mp3s are everywhere.

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June 23, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ghost of Cesar Franck: Soo Bae and Reiko Uchida in Concert at Pace University, NYC 6/22/09

Monday evening seemed to have been curated by the ghost of Cesar Franck, one of the most underrated composers ever, both during his life and afterward. Throughout the Belgian-born Romantic tunesmith’s impressively diverse repertoire of symphonic, chamber, organ and piano compositions, there are echoes of the best of Bach, Handel and Beethoven’s deeper and more mature works, along with hour after hour of pioneering ideas that foreshadow both Rachmaninoff and rock music. In a brilliant stroke of programming, cellist Soo Bae and her frequent collaborator, pianist Reiko Uchida chose Franck’s Sonata in A Major as the centerpiece of their concert downtown at the Pace University auditorium. The theme of the bill was love, which in most cases portends a lot of schlock. But this performance vividly and completely unselfconscious gave life to the more intense portion of the emotional spectrum. The two Bach pieces that bookended the program were warm and familiar, the first an old gradeschool favorite of the Long Island-bred cellist and the encore a deceptively complex, perfectly paced, contented reflection.

The highlight of the show, in its elaborate, practically 40-minute magnificence called for a vastly more expansive array of emotions: longing, anguish, reverence, joy, passion, breathless anticipation and a lot more, not necessarily in that order. Bae told the crowd that Franck had written it for fellow composer Eugene Ysaye’s wedding – it’s hard to think of a more dramatic or painstakingly crafted gift. The first of its four movements began poignant with call-and-response between the two instruments, growing to a crescendo that was equal parts anguish and passion – Franck obviously knew all too well that love is a dangerous occupation, and to the musicians’ credit, rather than going completely over the top, they both held back, Bae’s knotted brow testament to how intensely she’d been taken in by the composition – yet, both musicians’ interpretation was gently, knowingly nuanced. The second movement began almost as a boogie (this was written a century before the rock era), shifting to one of Franck’s signature anthemic passages, a nocturne, an almost baroque section and an intense, percussive coda. After that, one of Ysaye’s pieces, the Child’s Dream (arranged by Bae herself) couldn’t have been anything but anticlimactic, although the duo did a good job shifting it from an almost cloying, stererotypically Romantic introduction through an increasingly apprehensive series of permutations, like watching a child mature, knowing how much more trouble they’re going to cause everyone as they get older.

Bae then did a fascinating solo interpretation of a spiritual that she’d discovered on youtube, Still, its melody as 18th century Northern European as second-generation African, and she buttressed it with lithe arpeggios that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Scarlatti piece. The program closed with a lighthearted pops tune that would work in a future soundtrack to the Godfather, Part 4: Buenos Aires if that’s ever made. After all this, Cesar Franck wherever he is would still have been smiling.

June 23, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Top Ten Songs of the Week 6/22/09

We do this every Tuesday. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Pretty much every link here will take you to each individual song.

 

1. Alice Texas – Oh, My Beautiful

New song from the reliably excellent NYC noir songwriter/chanteuse – you’ll have to see her live to hear this. Watch this space

 

2. Lorraine Leckie – Four Cold Angels

Ominous, surfy ghoulabilly with a strange early 80s new wave edge.

 

3. Panonian Wave – Pitanje

Janglerock meets gypsy punk. They’re at Radegast Hall in Williamsburg on 6/24 at 9.

 

4. Bing and Ruth – Chaperone to a Civil War

Offhandedly stark, hypnotic, echoey minimalist instrumental.

 

5. D.B.C.R. – Let Them Eat Bikes

The band name stands for Drunken Belligerent Confrontational Rock. They hate trendoids, gentrification and they have Jason Victor from Steve Wynn’s band on guitar. They’re at Hank’s at 9 on 6/25.

 

6. Chris Cacavas – It’s All Over

Ominously swaying Americana rock with a southwestern gothic tinge from the ex-Green on Red keyboardist.

 

7. Maya Caballero – All Roads Lead to Here

Ethereal, hypnotic acoustic southwestern gothic.

 

8. Garden Gnome – Service with a Smile

Synth loop-driven prog rock, totally King Crimson except with keys.

 

9. Girl to Gorilla – Madeira

Fiery tuneful somewhat Social Distortion style rock. They’re at the National Underground on 6/27 at 11.

 

10. Biggie Smalls – St. Ides commercial

St. Ides is one of the most disgusting beers ever made. But it will get you very drunk. Thirty seconds’ worth of what made Biggie’s tummy so big.

June 23, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 6/23/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Tuesday’s song is #400:

Radio Birdman – Descent into the Maelstrom

One of the legendary Australian garage punks’ finest moments, this combines the surfy stomp, eerie chromatically-charged guitar fury and over-the-edge, desperate feel that defined them. The studio version from Radios Appear, 1978, is blissfully good; the link above is a characteristically ferocious live take.

June 23, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment