Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 8/11/10

Every day, we count down the 1000 best albums of all time all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #902:

Dickie Goodman – Greatest Fables

Dickie Goodman invented sampling. Along with his partner Bill Buchanan, Goodman enjoyed a string of comedy hits in the mid-1950s that worked a bizarrely funny call-and-response between an announcer (usually the fictitious, bewildered “John Cameron Cameron”) and snippets of the pop hits of the day, the first and most famous of these being The Flying Saucer, a War of the Worlds parody. In shades of what the RIAA would do to unsuspecting downloaders fifty years later, the recording industry sued them for copyright infringement. Buchanan and Goodman responded that their creations were parodies and therefore exempt from prosection – and won the case. And responded with the even funnier Buchanan and Goodman On Trial. Goodman resurfaced, solo, in the 70s with the topical Energy Crisis, the blaxploitation soundtrack parody Superfly Meets Shaft and then his only platinum single, Mr. Jaws, in 1975. Goodman: “And what did you say when the shark touched you?

Olivia Newton-John: “Please, mister, please.”

And so on. This 1998 compilation has all the Buchanan and Goodman hits, including The Touchables (a spoof of late 50s tv detective shows) along with all of his solo singles including the very funny King Kong, from 1978, and an updated version of Flying Saucer by Goodman’s son Jon, utilizing more contemporary song samples. Dickie Goodman committed suicide in 1989. There are several download links for this out there: here’s a random one.

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August 11, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sick Free Jazz Guys Cover the White Light/White Heat Album

This is better than the original – although that’s really not saying much. It’s way funnier too, like what Rawles Balls might have done with it if they were a horn band. Lou Reed used up all his best songs on the Velvets’ first album; White Light/White Heat is basically just a crappy garage band taking a stab at psychedelia. The members of Puttin’ on the Ritz, whose song-for-song if not exactly note-for-note cover of White Light/White Heat is just out on Hot Cup Records, seem to share that view. The group is BJ Rubin on vocals, Moppa Elliott on bass and Kevin Shea on drums (half of irrepressible, iconoclastic free jazz crew Mostly Other People Do the Killing), Nate Wooley on trumpet, Jon Irabagon on saxes, Sam Kulik on trombones and Talibam’s Matt Mottel on “Turkish organ” on Sister Ray.

Rubin is not much of a singer, although he enunciates well enough so you can understand the lyrics – which is half the fun. They’re awful. Lady Godiva’s Operation? He does both the lead and the overdubs in one take. Bastardizing its inner artsy pop song might have felt revolutionary for Lou and crew in 1967; these guys expose it as amateurish and overdone.

Likewise, on The Gift, Rubin’s deadpan, nasal delivery is an improvement on John Cale’s half-buried mumble, although the sad tale of Waldo Jeffers mailing himself to his beloved Marsha has not aged well either. I Heard Her Call My Name, as it goes completely over the top, Gossip-style, reveals the original to be a parody of soul music. Sister Ray, all seventeen minutes and sixteen seconds of it, sounds like a bad jam Lou came up with on the spot when Verve’s people realized he was out of material. It’s there that Rubin’s enunciation really kicks in: counting how many times the word “ding-dong” appears in the song would make a great drinking game. The band – a formidable mix of A-list talent – basically slum it, playing the changes pretty straight with a minimum of the kind of mayhem they’re capable of. Which seems intentional.

If you like this one, you should check out Bryan and the Haggards’ equally sick album of Merle Haggard covers, Pretend It’s the End of the World. The likelihood of this crew putting out another album isn’t all that good, but here are some other overrated albums that definitely deserve this kind of treatment: Bitches Brew (guys, you would have the time of your life with this); Harvest, by Neil Young (super easy changes!); Evol, by Sonic Youth. Think about it.

July 21, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/12/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Wednesday’s song is #78:

Gruppo Sportivo – I Would Dance

Uncharacteristically dark jangly anthem from the mostly acoustic double live 1998 Second Life cd by these legendary Dutch rock satirists. “If life is a game, why am I so bloody serious? Why don’t I hang my own paintings on my empty walls?”

May 11, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Neil Innes at B.B. King’s, NYC 4/20/10

It’s a vaudeville device as old as vaudeville itself: get the crowd to repeat a series of phrases that begin innocuously and gradually become more and more ridiculous until the entire audience are making complete fools of themselves. Neil Innes got the house to affirm, in pretty perfect unison, that they’d never repeat anything that anyone purporting to being an authority figure wanted them to repeat – and they kept going, through a couple rounds of “Help me, Rhonda,” and would have gone on longer had the legendary Monty Python funnyman not grown sick of it. He did it again at the end of the show, getting everybody to do a big, fat raspberry, and spit all over each other. What was it that W.C. Fields said you could never underestimate?

Not every joke that Innes made was this broad or unsubtle, in fact just the opposite. The genius of Monty Python is in the casual absurdities, the little asides that you might miss if you’re not paying attention, or not on the same wavelength. There was a lot of that kind of humor, and a lot of music too – this was every bit the concert it was billed as, Innes showing off an impressive proficiency on acoustic guitar, piano and an oversized mandolin and a wryly tuneful, new wave soul songwriting style more than a little evocative of Graham Parker. And not all of it was funny, particularly a rather morbid, chordally complex number toward the end of the set, and the final encore, titled Old Age Becomes Me, a recent song that Innes had written to commemorate his 65th birthday. And old age does become him, resolutely absurdist after all these years, as quick to pick up on any incongruity or hypocrisy that crosses his radar as he ever was.

It was a mix of material from throughout Innes’ career. He briefly revisited his Bonzo Dog Band days, then ran through some silly old 1920s British music hall pieces, getting a boisterous call-and-response going with the crowd. The recent stuff riffed on an old guy trying to come to grips with the internet, a faux Mexican folk song about the seemingly impossible but very real decline of television to even greater lows – “I was the toilet bowl germ with the wicked grin,” the perplexed narrator dreams – and a send-up of French chanson delivered in the person of “Jean-Paul Satire.” The audience responded warmly to a couple of bits from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But the pieces de resistance were the Rutles songs, both from the movie and the even more hilarious 1997 Archaeology album, a phony Beatles Anthology that remains the gold standard for musical parody. The musical riffs were only half the fun – hearing the songs live, the gems hidden in the nooks and crannies jumped out when least expected. The curmudgeonly Irish cop in Doubleback Alley (i.e. Penny Lane) may drive the local kids crazy, but he’s looking out for them: “Stay away from the man in the ice cream van whose face was queer.” Innes proved equally adept at parodying Elton John, donning a pair of Williamsburg trendoid glasses, pounding the piano and slurring his lyrics through an absolutely ridiculous, absolutely spot-on ballad titled Godfrey Daniel. Considering that Monty Python after all this time remains a phenomenon that a new generation discovers every year, it wasn’t surprising to see how young most of the crowd was. Now if they can only put their slavish devotion to the man behind them and take his words of wisdom literally…

April 24, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music, theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 8/23/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Monday’s song is #338:

The Clash – The Sound of the Sinners

Joe Strummer wrote lots of funny songs and this is one of the best, a spot-on parody of gospel music from Sandinista, 1981, Bill Price’s pricelessly echoey, churchy production a perfect fit for Strummer’s scathing satire: “The message on the tablets was valium.”

August 24, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Very Best of the Whiskey Daredevils

Very smart, very funny roots rock. At first listen, this might sound at a distance like your typical bar band fare, but Cleveland’s Whiskey Daredevils are a whole lot more than that, closer to the Yayhoos except with more of a vintage 50s/60s influence. ” How come Guns N Roses took 14 years to make a record, yet the Daredevils made one in 5 days that is twice as good?” asks their press release. Answer: well, for one they aren’t a bunch of posers (like the girl just back from LA chronicled in the snide Hey Nancy). What’s more, they play with soul and fire, particularly guitarist Bob Lanphier who sounds like Billy Zoom on steroids. As you may have guessed, this isn’t the greatest-hits anthology alluded to by the cd cover, it’s their latest album (on the German Knock-Out label).

 

The cd kicks off with the riff from Mystery Train, into the tongue-in-cheek murder ballad Friend in Jesus. One of the reasons why the songs here are so funny is because they succeed so well at capturing the band’s twisted, blue-collar, decaying Rust Belt mileu and the weirdos who populate it, notably Gary in Gary Sez Fuck ‘Em, who can’t remember anything because he drinks too much Jaegermeister and has absolutely no interest in meeting anybody from Springsteen’s band. He could be real – there are a lot of guys like that around. Like the obsessive who won’t let his friend get a word in edgewise because he’s always talking about Planet of the Apes, when he could be hearing about something far more interesting like an encounter with a mobster on the way to an Iggy Pop show, or a stripper from Iran with a “snow white tan.” That’s another song here.

 

The absolutely funniest one here is a minor-key rockabilly-inflected number about a wannabe Texas troubador who works at Bennigan’s and lives in his parents’ basement, spending his free time serenading girls at the local open mic: “Original compositions sure do make the ladies cry,” singer Greg Miller explains with a wink the size of Lake Erie. Another one, Jimmy Rogers, is a laugh-out-loud dismissal of hero worship that plays like a straight-up country homage until the last verse. Then there’s the roaring, punkish Skunk Weed, nicking a lick from We’re Desperate by X (could that be intentional maybe?), chronicling the misadventures of a brain-addled Deadhead. He can’t get a job, but “when it comes to weed, he’s a handyman, make you a pipe from a Pepsi can.” There’s also a swinging, minor-key rumble, like a darker Rev. Horton Heat, the snide tale of a drunk kid who tries to swim the Cuyahoga river and doesn’t make it (set to the tune of El Paso) and a spot-on, sarcastic tune about laid off industrial workers going off to Iraq, knowing, of course, that Uncle Sam has a plan and everything will be fine. This is a great driving album (it’ll definitely keep you awake) and a great party album. If you ever throw a kegger and a crowd of trendoids with trucker hats, lumberjack beards, Elton John glasses and $400 bedhead haircuts shows up, just put this cd on, they’ll all leave and you’ll get your place back.

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Sasha Dobson and Van Hayride at Banjo Jim’s 5/6/07

Sasha Dobson, a jazz/pop singer who’s now playing guitar as well, has become one of the few NYC artists to get any press in the NY Times, and she’s earned it: she’s what Norah Jones should aspire to be in a couple of years. Dobson has paid her dues playing small clubs over the past several years and sings in a lower register than Jones, but still invites the inevitable Norah comparisons since she’s moved away from jazz toward a more pop style. Her stage persona is more confident, more world-weary and decidedly more mature, perhaps appropriately so. She has a fondness for minor keys and rhythms like bossa nova and tango which are well suited to her sultry delivery. Now if only she could stick to doing her own, surprisingly compelling original material instead of covering the likes of hacks like Richard Julian (who duetted with her on one of his songs and added absolutely nothing: to paraphrase Billy Preston, nothing plus nothing makes nothing).

Van Hayride, the headline act, shares a rhythm section with Dobson, the only conceivable reason (other than careless booking) for them to have followed on the bill: But segue or no segue, they were tremendous, and had the audience in hysterics throughout their completely over-the-top set. Van Hayride features the hardest working man in country music, Jack Grace as frontman plus the piano player from his country band along with guitarist Steve Antonakos (what NYC band is this guy NOT in???), doing country covers of Van Halen songs. These guys are smart: they know that 99% of heavy metal is comedy, and that Van Halen were its finest Borscht Belt practitioners. Grace does a spot-on David Lee Roth parody: during one song, he lay on the floor, the mic just out of his reach, as if so wasted that he lacked the eye/hand coordination to reach out and grab it. “Where’s my mic tech,” he growled. On another song, he slumped backwards against the drum kit, his head up against the kick drum. He put the mic everywhere but where it should be, and made his bandmates laugh to the point where they were screwing up. Which is all part of the act. Van Hayride is a thorough reminder of A) how moronic Van Halen’s lyrics were, B) how even stupider Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing was and C) how absolutely necessary Van Hayride is. And it’s a good thing it’s these guys doing it. Grace is the consummate showman, whether fronting this unit or his own far more serious yet still gutbustingly funny band, and he’s never lacked for excellent players behind him. Antonakos plays Eddie Van Halen’s lines pretty much note for note, albeit without the fuzzy distortion or garish flourishes. Van Hayride are in a four-way tie for funniest New York band, along with Tammy Faye Starlite in all her many incarnations; cover band hellions Rawles Balls, whose most recent shows have turned into bacchanalian karaoke sessions; and Cocktail Angst, the Spinal Tap of lounge bands.

To fully appreciate Van Hayride, it helps to know the source material (Doug Henwood, I know you’re out there): there’s a certain target audience here, specifically those who were subjected to the stuff on FM radio in the early 80s (Van Hayride proudly declares that they’re a “David Lee Roth only” Van Halen cover band). But judging from the response of the crowd in the club – a broad cross-section of ages and locales – you don’t have to be a Van Halen fan (or hater) to get a kick out of this. Next time they play, you might as well jump (”So that’s what the song’s about?” Grace asked quizzically as they reached the end). Van Hayride plays every Sunday in May at 10 at Banjo Jim’s.

May 8, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments