Monday, March 27, 2006

Book No. 7: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Roach, a sometimes Salon columnist, has written a witty, breezy book about dead bodies. You've probably heard about this book from friends or on NPR, but it's well worth a read. Roach somehow turns the subject into something so light that the stories stick with you without any distaste for the subject. There's a lot of reviews about this one out there, so I'm going to just mention that I read and recommend it.

Book No. 6: The Devil and Sonny Liston by Nick Tosches

This is the best Tosches book I've read thus far. The arc of Sonny Liston's life is laid out as a tragedy on the grand scale. The marriage of boxing, mafia, and race relations in the mid-20th century are the real story here, playing Liston like more rook than pawn, pushing him forward in straight lines towards some goal that he could not possibly understand. Someone should write an opera.

Book No. 4: Love's Forever Changes by Andrew Hultkrans (33 1/3)
Book No. 5: Elvis Costello's Armed Forces by Franklin Bruno (33 1/3)

In preparing myself to start working on my book, I thought it best to read a few more 33 1/3 titles, and these two, which I'd been wanting to read, seemed the most promising choices. I read Forever Changes back around the end of January/early February and Armed Forces through the middle of February, so my impressions are a bit duller than they were when I had just finished the books.

Hultkrans's book is much more enjoyable than Barney Hoskins's Arthur Lee book, which I read last year, although he uses Hoskins as a source. Hultkrans is mainly concerned with the voice of Forever Changes, a voice he calls prophetic in the Old Testament sense. I'm a little distanced from my initial impressions now, but I have a new, greater appreciation for the lyrics of the album, which I had already thought fantastic. "Live and Let Live," in particular, sounds even more like the end of the world, and maybe it is.

Bruno's book doesn't seem to have a central thesis about the album, but is full of fascinating little details and detours (rather like Bruno's music, I think) and similarly heightened my appreciation for an album already near the top of my personal pantheon. One of my brother music geeks described this one as the greatest 33 1/3 book thus far. I don't think I'm willing to go that far, but it's certainly a damn sight better than the one on The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, and definitely in my top rung.

So. I didn't plan to take a two-week hiatus, but there it was.

I took my little boy down to SXSW day shows every day, but we didn't see anyone really worth mentioning. I got out one night for the Fiery Furnaces at Red's Scoot Inn, and they proceeded to tear the roof off the mother. Well, there's no roof on the back patio there, but ok. No keyboards in sight, and some of the crazier-ass rewrites of songs I've ever heard, as if Tony Iommi is Matt Friedberger's muse these days. Yowza.

I should catch up on books, but I'll do those in separate posts. Research on the book is going well. I'm working on refining my interview questions for the people who've agreed to talk with me.

TV: My wife and I obtained copies of the rest of Battlestar Galactica's 2nd season (the first half is out on dvd, but I haven't seen any announcements about when they're going to release the rest of it). As with the previous season-and-a-half, the show has some serious quality control issues, but when it's good, it's pretty decent. Also obtained copies of The Sopranos first two episodes of S6 (I'll watch the third tonight). I'm interested to see where this goes, and highly recommend Matt Zoller Seitz's analyses.

Music: Picked up Wilco's Kicking Television, a live double-CD. I love the sound of Nels Cline integrating with the music, but they occasionally tip the scales from lovely Television-esque guitar god perfection into thoughtless, crappy Jerr-Bear noodliness. The main offender is "Ashes of American Flags," and I halfway suspect it's the guitar tone that I hate more than anything. Also bought Richard Thompson's release from last year, Front Parlour Ballads, that's like almost every album he's put out in the last 16 years: some tracks are brilliant and some are half-baked. The man has made some extraordinarily well-conceived albums, so it's a shame to hear him put out songs that feel like he could have spent a little more time fleshing them out, but, then again, who the hell am I to judge him? The sheer volume of his best work is stunning. I could pull a single five-star album out of his last two (which are both 3-4 stars at best), but perhaps the less-great tracks provide some valuable context for RT's brilliance. I read one review of his box set saying that his brilliance is best appreciated in a mix with other artists. Maybe the varying factor of having another voice is why I put 4 of the 6 albums he made with Linda (his ex-wife, not that I think anyone reading this needs a RT primer) in my top tier, while I would only put 4 of his 15 solo studio albums in that same tier. For those keeping score at home, those 8 best RT albums are: Starring as Henry The Human Fly, I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, Hokey Pokey, Pour Down Like Silver, Shoot Out The Lights, Amnesia, Rumor and Sigh, and Mock Tudor.

Friday, March 10, 2006

I'm playing next Saturday, March 18, at 5 or 6 pm...

UPDATE! I'm not playing next Saturday as I've just been unceremoniously tossed out of the band! This sucks for me because I've been wasting my leisure time learning someone else's music. But I am not the guitarist they are looking for. I just wished they had known this a month ago!

Fortunately, I have Parks & Wildlife, and I actually care quite a bit about that project.

Stolen from Maud's blog, as usual.

Sandra Day O'Connor takes on right-wing assaults on the judiciary, including the following warning: "We must be ever vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."

Folks, that's Sandra Day O'Connor warning about the slippery slope to dictatorship in the U.S., not Mark Crispin Miller. Gives me the shivers.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

This fantastic video, easily the most rockin' thing Stephen Stills has ever been associated with (not that I don't think that Neil Young should shoot him in the face), features a bassist who our friend at Oily Rags contends might be a young Rick James, not long after playing in Neil Young's Toronto-based band.

Consider. From the video and from the web.

I think that's the same guy. Same nose, same cheekbones, same chin.


Anonymous points out in comments that this is Greg Reeves. It would appear that he or she is correct. Mea culpa.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Brilliant post on McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Deadwood. Recommended by our good friend Scott of Moonshine Mountain.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Parks & Wildlife with The Distant Seconds, The Guise, and Basic at Trophy's on March 9. We go on at 9 pm.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Richard Thompson - RT: The Life and Music of Richard Thompson

Finally! I ordered it weeks ago, and it finally came yesterday. This is a release primarily for fans, but wow, this is a rich treat for us. Mostly taken from live performances (with a few demos and rareties thrown in for good measure), this thing is a motherlode of greatness.

Lemme start with what I don't like: the artwork. Once you crack the box, the discs look like shitty passed-around-the-record-show-a-few-too-many-times bootlegs. The booklet needed at least one more run past an editor, too, because the construction is confusing (in that some sections refer in shorthand to events that will be covered in later chapters, leaving the reader thinking, "What? When did they talk about that?") and there's more than a fair share of typos.

But what's on the discs is phenomenal. The sound quality is occasionally cruddy (and I think a good mastering studio could have cleaned these up significantly), but almost all of the performances are breathtaking. The third disc in particular (called "Shine In The Dark - Epic Live Workouts") captures exactly what it promises - the sort of guitar craziness that a fan like me has been pining for. That's not strong enough by a large margin. I wept. I renounced years of gleeful agnosticism. The version of "Calvary Cross" is so hotshit amazing that I can barely believe it didn't melt the mixing board.

The booklet (book? It's pretty long) is quite informative (and will directly contribute to my book, so I'm writing this off my taxes: YEAH!), and there's a brochure for Vincent motorcycles thrown in for the fun of it. I bought one guaranteed to have the mail-in postcard for a limited-edition bonus 6th CD.

Yes, I am in sonic heaven today.

Oh, I've finished two more books recently, but haven't yet written about them. Coming soon.

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