Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 12/22/10

Here we are in the woods, generator humming, wine flowing, broadband blasting, tasks overwhelming. But before we get started with our last-gasp attempt to get caught up with everything that happened this year, every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #769:

Peter Gabriel – Up

We’re going to stay in the year 2002 for a second day in a row before we move on. If you were a fan at the time, you probably knew that this album took a long time to finish; if you weren’t, and you knew it existed, it probably came as a surprise. It’s Gabriel’s best solo album, as dark or darker than anything he ever did at his peak with Genesis back in the early 70s when they were a stagy, absurdist classical-rock band. By the time he began work on it in the mid-90s, he was heavily involved with WOMAD, his world music festival, and this reflects his qawwali obsession without drowning in it. The first track, Darkness, alternates explosive anguish with pensive lyrical piano passages; Growing Up is dark hypnotic funk; Sky Blue is just the opposite, and very memorably so, followed by the vivid requiem No Way Out and then the equally vivid, hypnotically atmospheric I Grieve. The Barry Williams Show throws a jab at the idiocy of reality tv; the most unforgettable track here is Signal to Noise, a scream for sanity in an insane world. Other standout tracks include the ominous ballad My Head Sounds Like That, the darkly trippy More Than This and The Drop, one of his most plaintive, poignant songs, just solo piano and vocals. Here’s a random torrent.

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December 21, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deoro’s Eclectic Cello Rock Strikes Gold at the Rockwood

New York is full of good cello rock bands. Serena Jost is about to put out a new album; Blues in Space are playing the Highline the first week in January; Erin and Her Cello are about to do her “holiday spectacular” at the Rockwood this Friday. Last night, cellist Dave Eggar’s band Deoro played the Rockwood and proved equally good at an absurd number of styles. The first ten minutes of the show capsulized a lot but not all of the surprises that would come afterward. Backed only by nimble five-string electric bass and smartly terse drums, Eggar fired off a snazzy display of overtones, a Middle Eastern flourish and then a verse of Silent Night that he peeled away from, Jimi Hendrix style, into a cello metal boogie. A swaying dance alternated with stark, still, moody passages, the bassist sneaking in and introducing a tango beat. A hypnotically circling avant garde-tinged motif segued into a dramatic art-rock dance, in 6/8, and then their drummer finally sang an apprehensive reggae number about impending ecological disaster. Earlier this year, the band recorded their album New Kingston Morning at the legendary Tuff Gong Studios in Jamaica, Eggar taking obvious pride in announcing that it had been nominated for a Grammy.

Singer Dina Fanai joined them, adding her unselfconsciously soulful, nuanced alto to a haunting Middle Eastern song that began with a suspenseful drone, Eggar building slinky snakecharmer atmosphere behind Fanai’s impassioned intensity. It was the high point of the night. And then it morphed into another artsy, Jean-Luc Ponty-esque dance. The rest of the set included a country gospel number that they’d recorded with Dr. Ralph Stanley; a fiery rap-metal number with some tongue-in-cheek guitar voicings on the cello and a savage lyric about the Iraq war; the gently bucolic title track to the new album, and Follow Me to the Sun, another album cut, sung by the drummer, eventually morphing into a bouncy disco vamp. Is there any style of music this band can’t do? Apparently not. The impressively full house, especially for what is now an unseasonably cold night, wanted more.

And the show was even educational. As it turns out, Silent Night has a second verse (they sang it, joined by a powerful bass singer from the Metropolitan Opera). Like Meet the Mets, nobody ever hears it – and also like Meet the Mets, it doesn’t really need it. Simon and Garfunkel’s version put that song out of reach for good a long time ago.

December 16, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, reggae music, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 9/18/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #864:

The Electric Light Orchestra – No Answer

OK, we concede to all you ELO fans out there. There are more of you than we ever thought – what a pleasant surprise! This one was always lurking in the wings here, and you just pushed it onto the list. The 1972 ELO debut album – and the rest of the band’s early output – differentiates itself from most of the other orchestrated rock albums out there with its rustic feel. Jeff Lynne would overdub the string section over and over again to simulate the lushness of an orchestra, a sound that he was never quite able to replicate, which actually works better here than he probably ever thought at the time. The scrapy cellos add a sinister edge to the iconic, vaguelly Orwellian British hit 10538 Overture, the hallucinatory Queen of the Hours, the chamber-metal instrumental Battle of Marston Moor and the angst-ridden Look at Me Now, which picks up where Eleanor Rigby left off and takes it to the next level. There’s also the thorny Roy Wood acoustic guitar instrumental First Movement, Lynne’s piano boogie Manhattan Rumble, the charmingly oldtimey Nellie Takes Her Bow and Mr. Radio and the wrenchingly gorgeous lament Whisper in the Night, arguably the best song Wood ever wrote. He would exit after this album to do retro 50s Americana with Wizzard, leaving Lynne at the helm free to pursue his visionary blend of rock and classical music. Although we’re trying hard to limit this list to one album per band, you just might see these guys again here somewhere down the line. Here’s a random torrent.

September 17, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 9/13/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #869:

Can – Monster Movie

The cult favorite is the German band’s 1971 Tago Mago album, with its hypnotic grooves and assaultive avant freakouts. This is Can’s rock record, a memorably twisted piece of post-Beatles psychedelia from 1969. As with the rest of the band’s output, drummer Jaki Liebezeit absolutely owns this. With his inimitable, hypnotic rattle and pulse, it’s already obvious where he’s going to take this band’s music for most of the next decade. Side one begins with Father Cannot Yell, its weird lyrics, melodic bass, proto-Robert Fripp guitar and motorik rhythm evoking a bizarre cross between the Velvets and Terry Riley (who was a big influence, along with Karlheinz Stockhausen, who served as teacher to both bassist Holger Czukay and organist Irmin Schmidt). Mary, Mary So Contrary is a fractured folk-rock dirge, followed by Outside My Door, an Astronomy Domine ripoff but a good one. The second side is a twenty-minute stoner jam (streaming in three parts, here, here and here), sort of a teutonic In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida edited down from what was reputedly a marathon six-hour studio session. With minimal reverb guitar, trebly bass, creepy Farfisa and Liebezeit’s epic funeral drums, they establish their signature trancey sound after it gets going, particularly when they bring it down to just the bass and the drums and leave it there for what seems forever (you can practically smell the pot smoke drifting in from the other room). Joy Division’s Dead Souls owes its drum riff to this one. Here’s a random torrent.

September 12, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Renaissance at Rockefeller Park, NYC 6/23/10

Some will find this hubristic, but this is the best edition of Renaissance yet – including the original 1969 lineup. Unlike a lot of their art-rock contemporaries during their seventies heyday, Renaissance opted for drama and majesty over any overwhelming sense of angst or wrenching intensity. Downtown tonight under a starless sky and a welcome sea breeze, they made every one of their fifty power-packed minutes count. Annie Haslam wasn’t even in the original band – she replaced the late, great Keith Relf – but throughout her time in the group she’s made a lot of people forget that. And she’s still got that awe-inspiring five-octave range. Other singers use all kinds of technology to disguise their flaws – not Haslam, and that made itself known not because she backed off from the demanding arrangements of the original recordings, but from the occasional slight imperfection. That she can still deliver those stratospheric notes, even if sometimes more gently than she did 35 years ago, is extraordinary. Not that Haslam would ever subject herself to the indignity of Eurovision or American Idol, but at age 63, she’d still win either one in a heartbeat.

The rest of the band played with passion and precision. Haslam’s longtime collaborator Michael Dunford’s acoustic guitar was too low in the mix most of the time, but when he was audible he was jangly and inspiring, while the two keyboardists, Rave Tesar and Tom Brislin matched piano to sweeping synthesizer orchestration. New bassist David J. Keyes was nothing short of brilliant, firing his way nimbly through a thorny series of changes, using a bristly, trebly tone much like Mo Moore would do with Nektar. Drummer Frank Pagano, a guy with a solid, four-on-the-floor rep from his work with Willie Nile and the Fab Faux, really opened some eyes with his spot-on, boomy and joyously orchestral attack on a big kit. From the first few notes of vocalese on the ornate, Romantically-imbued instrumental Prologue, Haslam held the surprisingly young (that word is relative) audience rapt – one can only wonder how many, relaxing on the lawn, were only now getting to see the band for the first time. Carpet of the Sun was a pleasant, artsy pop hit on record: live, the band emphasized its sweeps and swells, particularly the occasional Middle Eastern allusion (a device that would recur several times, to welcome effect). Strikingly, the best song of the night was a new one, a marvelously suspenseful epic, The Mystic and the Muse (to be released on a forthcoming ep of all-new material), a feast of spine-tingling vocals, a series of distantly Blue Oyster Cult-ish galloping crescendos and a perfectly powerful ending from Haslam.

Like the rest of the first crop of art-rockers, Renaissance were not opposed to pilfering a classical motif or two, most obviously on Running Hard, which makes a rock song out of the theme from the great French composer Jehan Alain’s Litanies. It’s hard enough to do on the organ and must be even more so on piano, but Renaissance’s keyboardist nailed it with staccato abandon. They went out on a high note with the epic Mother Russia, a seamless suite of themes closer to Tschaikovsky than Shostakovich, ending with Haslam belting out a long, low note (low for her at least – D next to middle C?), fearless and unwavering. What’s impossible for most of us still seems easy for her. The rest of the North American tour schedule is here.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 6/21/10

Today is Make Music NY! Ditch work, or if you’re unemployed, just go and see something. Our top picks for the day’s concerts are here. In the meantime, every day, for a little more than a month, our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s song is #38:

Procol Harum – Conquistador

Sympathy for the devil: dead imperialist lies half-buried at the water’s edge, rusty scabbard in what’s left of his hand. And at this point, all he can command is pity: “You came to conquer, but only died.” The best version is the 1972 hit single from the Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra lp, string section kicking off the song’s majestic flamencoesque hook, David Ball’s guitar solo one of the greatest moments of noise-rock ever recorded. The link above includes some audience noise – start it and then mute it until about :20.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/18/10

Every day, for about the next six weeks anyway, our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s song is #41:

Pink Floyd – Your Possible Pasts

As poignant a requiem for lost time, and various tortured pasts, as has ever been written, Michael Kamen’s piano stark and plaintive against and all the railroad siding sound effects:

They flutter behind you, the banners and flags
Of your possible pasts lie in tatters and rags

From the brilliant and vastly underrated Final Cut album, 1983.

June 18, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/15/10

Every day, for the next month and a half anyway, our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s song is #44:

The Electric Light Orchestra – Laredo Tornado

Raw, wounded, careening anthem mourning the loss of a better time and place. The tradeoff from Jeff Lynne’s lead guitar over to Mik Kaminsky’s electric violin midway through the solo out is one of the high points in rock history. From the Eldorado album, 1975.

June 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Blue Oyster Cult at Westbury Music Fair, Westbury, Long Island 6/13/97

[Editor’s note – out of town for the weekend, we’re mining the archive as we used to do during slow periods, our first year. This doesn’t qualify as a NYC concert since it was out in Westbury but here it is anyway]

Spur of the moment decision: ten minutes after dinner, we were on the LIRR on a cruise to nowhere. The crowd was as expected: kids from the smoking section in high school, twenty years later, with bigger beer guts and more cellulite. Pat Travers opened and only got about 25 minutes ending with Snorting Whiskey and Drinking Cocaine – he actually has good technique and a sense of melody, but bends every note he plays gratuitously like Jimmy Page at his most, well, gratuitous. Foghat followed and got a standing ovation. A long, long cover of Sweet Home Chicago (looks like they didn’t have enough tunes for a whole set), led into a wildly applauded Fool for the City and Slow Ride: enough mindless, audibly painful guitar masturbation for a lifetime. How someone as cool as Lynda Barry can like a band this awful stretches the imagination. Blue Oyster Cult vacillated between boredom and inspiration: half of lead guitarist Buck Dharma’s solos went nowhere. But the best wailed, hard. This particular version of the group has a new rhythm section (the Bouchard brothers haven’t been in this unit in awhile), but Dharma, guitarist/keyboardist Allan Lanier and frontman Eric Bloom are still in the band and game to be plying the nostalgia circuit. Bloom, in fact made it a point to mention how they were playing their old stomping ground, lapsing into his best Lawn Guyland accent with the knowing authenticity of someone who’d had the misfortune to grow up here. They opened with a swinging version of the art-rock anthem Stairway to the Stars opened, later ripping through a fast take on the drug dealer murder ballad Then Came the Last Days of May, where the band picked up the tempo and went almost doublespeed on the break before the last verse. The instrumental Buck’s Boogie screamed, like ZZ Top if they’d been born in Europe (impossible, but just try to imagine it) and featured a pleasantly brief drum solo; Cities on Flame and Godzilla were metal by the numbers as expected. The powerpop smash Burning for You was absolutely smoking; Dharma’s solo started wildly metallic, then suddenly note for note with the furious version on the live On Your Feet or On Your Knees album. Without much fanfare, Don’t Fear the Reaper closed the show, stripped down and a bit cursory. Since the venue was on a tight schedule, there no encores; Steppenwolf or whatever’s left of them were next so we were out of there after Sookie Sookie and two other awful tunes.

June 13, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: My Education – Sunrise

The Dirty Three meets Friends of Dean Martinez meets Brooklyn Rider meets My Bloody Valentine – that’s what the absolutely killer, hypnotic new album by cinematic, psychedelic Austin instrumentalists My Education sounds like. Just as Steve Nieve did with F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh and Chicha Libre have recently done with Chaplin films, My Education chose to compose a new soundtrack for Murnau’s Oscar-winning 1927 silent film Sunrise. Weaving elements of dreampop, art-rock and baroque music into lush, densely shimmering soundscapes, the album transcends any kind of label that might be conveniently stamped on a film soundtrack.

The opening track is a pretty, wistful circular fugue theme with strings, in the same vein as Brooklyn Rider’s recent work, or a louder Redhooker. The second segment, City Woman Theme offers a tip of the hat to Pink Floyd’s Breathe, building to a swirling, dense cloud of dreampop reverb guitar. With an ominous, David Lynchian feel, Lust layers strings and stately guitar accents over a slow swaying beat, swirling and blending hypnotically down to just a texturally beautiful thicket of acoustic guitars over drums. Then they bring it up again.

The tense tone poem Heave Oars has staccato guitar echoes winding their way through a wash of eerie noise. Howling overtones and finally the drums come pounding along, with a fierce martial riff straight out of something the Church might have done on Priest = Aura, a volcanic ocean of roaring guitars that finally fades away unexpectedly in the span of a few seconds. The next track, Peasant Dance alternates between a fast, rustic shuffle with vibraphone and viola, and majestic gypsy-flavored metal. The album wraps up with the apprehensive, tensely cloudy tone poem A Man Alone and then the title track, its theme baroquely working variations on a simple hook cleverly spiced with slide guitar, Scarlatti as played by Floyd circa Dark Side. It’s all absolutely hypnotic and psychedelic. The album is just out on Strange Attractors; the band will be on summer tour, with a full schedule of dates here.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | experimental music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment