Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Some More Songs for You While We Fix This Thing

As many of you remember, we’ve had a longstanding tradition here putting up a new song every day, counting down our Top 666 Songs of Alltime list all the way to #1, until we were forced to break with that tradition about three weeks ago. Since it now looks like we may not be in a position to put up a new post every day til about November 1, here are the songs in the list which take us up to that point where we will hopefully resume daily activity here:

284. Procol Harum – Homburg

Very British, very stately, very subtle slap at authority from 1967, ominous organ and piano beneath Gary Brooker’s deadpan voice and one of lyricist Keith Reid’s best early ones. The single had to wait til 1974 to be released on album on Procol’s Best; mp3s are everywhere. The link above is the unintentionally hilarious original promo video.

283. Stiv Bators – A Million Miles Away

Haunting, majestic epic, the best song and sort of title track to Bators’ solo debut Disconnected, recorded as the Dead Boys were self-destructing around 1980 but not released til a few years later. RIP.

282. The Vapors – News at Ten

Furious, exasperated punk rock from the classic New Clear Days lp from 1979 (the same one that spawned their lone American hit, Turning Japanese), a generational battle taken up close and personal: “Still I can’t hear you!!!”

281. Al Stewart – Man for All Seasons

One of the popular 70s British art-rock songwriter’s most epic moments – and he had a bunch of them. This is a classic of existentialist rock, one of his smartest, most philosophical lyrics, slide guitar in the background providing lusciously ominous atmospherics. From the Time Passages lp, 1978, frequently found in the dollar bins at your favorite used vinyl purveyor.  Mp3s are everywhere (the link above is a torrent of the whole album).

280. The Dead Boys – Detention Home

Never recorded in the studio, this careening, menacing number was a live showstopper and one of the punk legends’ best songs. The best version is on the classic Night of the Living Dead Boys album from 1981, Jimmy Zero and Cheetah Chrome’s guitars screaming with feedback as the late Stiv Bators snarls his murderous lyrics.

279. Roxy Music – Out of the Blue

Haunting, swaying minor-key art-rock anthem, one of Bryan Ferry’s darkest numbers despite the upbeat lyrics. The studio version on the Country Life lp isn’t bad, but in concert the band went nuts with it. The link above is a tasty live clip from 1976. There are also delicious versions on the Roxy Music Live lp from the same year as well as the 2002 live reunion double cd, but the best is from the first live reunion cd featuring one of Phil Manzanera’s most exhilarating solos ever.

278. The Doors – The End

Listen closely: this is a pop song that morphs into a raga. Sure, it’s a “classic rock” standard, but deservedly so. Ray Manzarek’s swirling, funereal Balkan organ in tandem with Robbie Krieger’s evil guitar runs over John Densmore’s equally evil, crashing drums make the vocals almost an afterthought. “Mother, I want to fuck you!!!” Whatever.

277. The Church – Life Speeds Up

This macabre Syd Barrett-inflected epic was a mid-80s concert staple for the extraordinary, still vital Australian art-rockers. As Steve Kilbey has noted, the studio version on the 1988 double lp retrospective Hindsight is a bit stiff, but it’s still great. And there are bootlegs out there: Church fans are obsessive and generous with their files.

276. The Damned – Plan 9 Channel 7

The punk legends’ best song is this ornate, darkly anthemic masterpiece. The lyrics don’t make much sense – they seem to be about falling asleep with the tv on – but the raging guitar against a haunting organ backdrop are one of the high points in goth music. There are a million live tracks kicking around, many of them excellent, but it’s the 1979 studio version from the impressively diverse Machine Gun Etiquette lp that’s the classic.

275. The Church – The Maven

The Australian art-rock legends long ago proved that they didn’t need a major label behind them to succeed – in fact, the opposite is true, and this scorching, crescendoing broadside wastes no words in making that apparent. The clanging, crushing roar of what sounds like a thousand guitar tracks as the song reaches a peak at the end is one of the most majestic, sonically exquisite passages ever recorded, in any style of music. “Just turn the light off when you go, just tell the jury all you know,” Steve Kilbey snarls. From Sometime Anywhere, 1994.

274. Radio Birdman – Hand of Law

If you’ve been following this list from the beginning, you may have noticed that Australian garage-punks Radio Birdman’s classic 1979 album Radios Appear is very well represented here – and here we go again, with another cauldron of guitar fury, almost five minutes of paint-peeling, macabre, screaming intensity from Deniz Tek and Chris Masuak.

273. The Saints – Follow the Leader

The studio version (see the link above) on the Out in the Jungle album is decent, but when the band were at their peak – as a janglerock unit, for about ten years starting in the early 80s – they transformed this catchy, swaying number into one of their most beautiful songs. The version that opens the 1985 Live in a Mud Hut lp is transcendent, a feast of jangly guitar textures and lushly metallic overtones.

272. The New Race – Love Kills

The New Race were a Detroit supergroup of sorts, Ron Asheton and Deniz Tek on guitars, Warwick Gilbert of Radio Birdman on bass and Dennis Thompson from the MC5 on drums. They did a couple of Australian tours and then ruined what should have been a phenomenal live album with studio overdubs. But their two other subsequent live cds both effectively capture the band’s transcendent, unearthly power. This is one of Tek’s most vividly lyrical songs, a deathly winter road trip from Chicago to the Murder City. The stark, semi-acoustic studio recording by Radio Birdman is unforgettable, but the New Race version from The First To Pay, driven by Gilbert’s roaring, distorted bass chords, is even better. And very hard to find in a digital format other than the grooveshark stream in the title above. Here’s a live Radio Birdman take; here’s another.

271. Radio Birdman – Monday Morning Gunk

The original, released as a single by Radio Birdman mastermind Deniz Tek’s first Australian Band TV Jones in 1972 (and included on the 1988 Tek retrospective Orphan Tracks) is a blazing, somewhat woozily psychedelic masterpiece. Others prefer Radio Birdman’s even more scorching, professionally recorded version, released on the European version of the classic 1979 Radios Appear album some nine years later.The multitracked guitars of Tek and Chris Masuak on the solo are hit a literally unreal crescendo.

270. Howlin Wolf – Sitting on Top of the World

The iconic bluesman’s 1954 studio single hews much closer to the Mississippi Sheiks’ rustic version from the 20s that he probably learned it from. But believe it or not, his best version is on the 1969 London Sessions album with none other than Eric Clapton on guitar – given sufficient inspiration, even a hack can sometimes rise to the occasion. And it’s Bill Wyman’s casually soaring bass work that carries it over the top. Wondering who that tight in-the-pocket drummer is? It’s Ringo.

269. Bob Dylan – Positively 4th St.

The prototypical anti-trendoid anthem. Hypocritical as it may have been, Dylan had nothing but contempt for class tourism and most of the hippies who shared his comfortable upper middleclass background. And it’s obvious that a lot of them didn’t like him either since being one of them, he sussed them out. “You’d rather see me paralyzed” – how true. Download this with impunity because he isn’t getting any royalties from it. 

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October 20, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Mary Lee Kortes and Andy York at Lakeside Lounge, NYC 10/15/09

Back at Lakeside two nights in a row and this time had its moments of pure unadulterated transcendence. Mary Lee Kortes is best known as the frontwoman of Americana rockers Mary Lee’s Corvette; Andy York played in that band for a few years back in the late 90s and early zeros, all the while serving as John Mellencamp’s lead guitarist. Together again after a hiatus, the two seemed blissfully happy about sharing a stage once more. Reinforcing that presumption was the tightness of their set – with timing like theirs, who needs a rhythm section? – and the craftsmanship of the songs. Kortes gets props for her voice, an extraordinarily powerful instrument capable of effortless leaps of an octave or more that she typically cuts loose with vastly greater nuance than most other artists gifted with such potent pipes. And while she did take several of those spine-tingling jumps, it was the jewel-like terseness of her songwriting that impressed the most, whether the almost minimalist pop of a couple of her early numbers, Lonely World (from the film Happy Hour) and I Had Your Heart in Mind, to the flinty, counterintuitive, darkly tinged Americana of The Nothing Song, to the defiant, minor-key garage rock exhilaration of Out from Under It. York, true to form, didn’t play anything more than a song asked for, making everything count: a dusky, hypnotic intro on Nothing Song, some ominously incisive blues on the clever, chromatically charged retro 60s pop of Learn from What I Dream and an understatedly scorching solo on the big psychedelic crowd-pleaser One More Sun that drew a spontaneous round of applause from a rapt crowd of dedicated fans and rock luminaries (Ian Hunter and James Mastro among them) who’d proved themselves something better than “weather wimps,” as Kortes grinningly identified those who’d let the wind and rain keep them away.

The highlight of the night was a riveting, sometimes almost skeletal version of the big ballad Portland, Michigan, a revealingly lyrical look beneath the seemingly blissful obliviousness of Midwestern life. It would have been nice to have been able to stick around for the encores, but there were places to get to, late.

Kortes’ relative absence from the NYC stage (with her band, she used to play around town several times a month) can be attributed to her time recently spent writing a musical based on the life of Beulah Rowley (sp?), a long-forgotten but apparently brilliant, multistylistic songwriter from earlier in the past century (don’t bother googling) who is overdue for a career retrospective – watch this space for info and upcoming show dates.

October 20, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Frankenpine at Lakeside Lounge, NYC 10/14/09

In case you don’t know what a frankenpine is, it’s a cellphone tower designed to look like a pine tree. “There’s one on the Merritt Parkway, and it looks more like a mascara brush,” Frankenpine’s frontwoman Kim Chase scowled as she explained her band’s name to the impressively good crowd who came out to Lakeside to see them last Wednesday. Lakeside gets a ton of good bands, but not all of them pack the place on a weekday like this crew did. The careening six-piece bluegrass group ran through a gorgeously tuneful, diverse mix of originals and imaginatively arranged covers with lots of terse, inspiring solos, all of which they kept relatively brief. The chemistry between the band members was apparent from their first song, where banjo player Matthew Chase handed off his solo to the resonator player – who then fired off some intriguingly spiky mandolin voicings. Nobody steps all over anybody else, and it’s obvious that this crew has a lot of fun – with Frankenpine, the music takes centerstage over anyone’s ego which is an awfully nice thing to see. What they play is the future of bluegrass, not the past. Everybody brings something from another genre to the band – the resonator player knows his blues, the violinist has an effortless, classically-inflected gracefulness and the guitarist/mandolinist might have a background in theatre, considering the comedic style of his songs. There hasn’t been any bluegrass band in town this unpredictably fun since the Dixie Bee-Liners vamoosed for the woods of Virginia and started winning IBMAs.

Kim Chase brought a defiant, uneasy wail to the songs, from the mournful requiem Boatman to a propulsive, upbeat, slightly Southwestern gothic outlaw ballad inspired by the Clint Eastwood film The Outlaw Josey Wales. The banjo instrumental Wolf at the Door was as tense and climactic as the title implied; contrasting with that were two songs by the mandolinist, one a funny number called I Don’t Love You Because You’re Pretty. The covers included a gory Civil War era narrative about battlefield amputation and drinking (which go hand in hand), sung by the bassist (who also doubled impressively on harmonica, and also played the kazoo); a hypnotic fade up into a swaying, psychedelic version of John the Revelator; a starkly rustic St. James Infirmary, playing the gruesomeness of the lyrics for all they were worth, and Dolly Parton’s Memories of You, sung by Kim Chase with a heartfelt wail that matched the longing of the original while avoiding falling into the trap of trying to beat Dolly at her own style (you can’t, and this is the rare kind of band who know that). They closed their set with a soaring original, clanging and plinking with gusto over some tasty major-to-minor changes. If you’re sick of ossified bluegrass bands, i.e. where you’re afraid to take a hit of your beer because you might burp and someone in the band might glare at you, get to know Frankenpine. They wouldn’t mind if you danced. And you could. They’re at Spikehill on Nov 8 at 2 (two) PM and then at Fat Baby on 11/21 at 9.

October 20, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments