Wednesday, July 25, 2018


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Jeff Beck has always been the most adventurous of the Yardbirds triad, and he's easily the most unique: only Hendrix rivals him for advancing rock guitar by light-years, and it's lucky for us that he's stayed alive to add to his legacy. Jeff Beck is easily the best of his generation: he has made more than a few awful records, but his guitar work was always without equal. He is the only one of the original British blues-rock pioneers who's learned how to blend his style musical situations than strict-rock: at his best, he is riveting as no other guitarist can be. The band from the albums Truth and Beckola rocked hard with a loose but fierce rhythm section and Beck's guitarwork seared like nothing else that had come before. People left their concerts without eyelashes. Becks' guitar licks sliced the meat in the butcher shop across the street powered the generators at the ER when the lights went out. Rod Stewarts' singing forced ugly cops to stay indoors on nice days.

I had been of the recent opinion that what guitarist Jeff Beck has been doing for the last decade was mainly composed of doodling-- short, strange guitar riffs and odd sounds aplenty, but little in the way of exciting guitar work. The July 22nd concert at the  Mattress Firm Amphitheater was another matter altogether; I've had the honor of seeing Beck three times previously; what did that night was a revelation. Fluid, fast, angular, bluesy, full of blues phrasing framed sidewise, and in reverse order, tonalities from a refined adaptation of Indian classical improvisation, splintered chromaticism, power chords, fusion dynamics, and the sweetest lyric playing one would wish for. And yes, lots of funk. All this, of course, with a fine band, including drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (Frank Zappa, Sting, Herbie Hancock), vocalist Jimmy Hall, bassist Rhonda Smith (Prince, Chaka Khan, Beyoncé, George Clinton) and cellist Vanessa Freebairn-Smith, all of whom propelled the guitarist with a tightly conceptualized sense of varying rhythms that drove the guitarist to what seemed like more significant and more inspired outlays of his singular virtuosity as the set wore on. 

Although not a hyper virtuoso along the lines of Joe Pass or John McLaughlin, two guitarists he clearly admires, Beck has, all the same, spent the majority of career in a state of perpetual flux, going from one style to the next, from hard rock, blues metal, rockabilly, jazz-rock to increasingly synth-dominated backdrops. Sometimes his playing, in my regard, missed the mark. Always, always, though, he was adding to his armory, changing his style, broadening his understanding of where a solo could go, evolving to his current state of what seems to be a superior style that's all of a piece, without seams, without stitches; great swaths of bracing electric dissonance intersected superbly with a spare and melodic ad-libbing along a song's central theme. Simple, winsomely stated phrases built into quick-witted crescendos. It was a night was a rich, fluent display of all his 50 years of experiments, investigations, inquiries into all manner of music from around the world. It was fluid, intense, the work of a singular artist at the very top of his form.

Thursday, July 19, 2018


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MADE IN OJAI—Smitty, and Julija
Soulful, soul searching, soul-bearing, soul matching, all terms to describe the singer-songwriters who write tunes less as candidates for hard rotation on the radio or various streaming services and more like updates on the status of their psyches. Much of its endearing, attractive, depending o
n the melodic craft and canny poetics of the artist we might be considering. Joni Mitchell? Yes. Paul Simon? Of course. Jackson Brown? Perhaps, provided what here from him is low dosage and brief.  A little bit of information from the annals of someone’s psychic equilibrium goes a long way. There is a propensity among many a self-revealing artist to overshare, to dwell, to paint their remembrance in thick coats of idealized colors. Ecstasy or perpetual despair.Made in Ojai by the duo Smitty and Julija (Smitty West and Julija Zonic) is a tuneful disc, well produced, lushly arranged and highlighting the soulful vocals from the pair. The record is a mixed bag of results, with a few of the songs taking a long time to evolve into something more intriguing. “I Just Wanna Sing this Song with You” begins with doleful piano, simple arpeggio figures that dwell a shade too long, with the song easing in slowly to some crystalline vocal harmonies from West and Zonic. 

But it's a longish ballad of laying one’s heart to the glorious presence of another.  The harmonies elevate the words and soar over the hesitant piano, infusing the lyrics with heartfelt emotion. This song, though, drags when, I think, it should pick up the pace and rhythmically engage a listener in their joy, and regrettably he is an element that hampers many of the other songs. Particularly the next song, “Let Her Go”, where the philosophical lesson of letting go of past loves, regrets and missed opportunities to grow are lost in what becomes an inevitable tedium.   Zonic has a fascinatingly vulnerable voice, suggesting a quiver, a quake, a certain fragility that suggests a trammeled soul that has to gather its wits and finds the words, the voice, the eventual wisdom to push on over the horizon.  One wishes the song were more melodically y proactive in the sentiment and less dirge-like. There is an element in 12 Step communities called Rule 62, which is ‘Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously”.You learn to laugh at your problems no matter how dreadful they appear lest you advance your demise with the annihilating weight that comes with being the center of the world.  Just when you think Smitty and Julija are without humor, we come across a sprite bit of satire, “Trust Fund Hippy”, West’s suitably and incisive to an obnoxious hipster indulging his counter-culture aesthetic with inherited money, oblivious to his own absurdity. Following suit, the music is up-tempo, with an old-time feeling, rather remindful of the Phil Ochs classic “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends.”  There is quite a bit to enjoy and admire in Made in Ojai, but one does wish they would have varied the fare, taken it beyond the confession box they seem comfortable in, and engaged their wittier instincts.

(Originally appearing in The San Diego Troubadour. Used with kind permission).

Friday, July 6, 2018

Sue Palmer rolls it out

Sue Palmer | Gems, Vol. One
GEMS, Volume One - Sue Palmer
San Diego’s Sue Palmer is a pianist known to the world as the Queen of Boogie Woogie, and throughout the 20 selections on her dealer’s choice anthology, Gems Volume One, we find the sobriquet is hers alone to wear. A constant and vital presence on the local music scene for 30 years plus, Palmer’s energized style of blues, swing, and jazz has delighted fans with keyboard work that is a wonder of rhythm and delicacy, two-fisted swagger and moaning blues holler, straight ahead improvisation and sweet doses of country and torch songs to make the evening’s entertainment a diverse delight. These tracks are choices Palmer has selected from the 20 albums she has recorded since 1980, recorded with a broad array of superlative musicians including Rob Thorsen, Candye Kane, April West, Gilbert Castellanos, and a slate of other players who add their distinct personalities to Palmer’s dedication to swing, stop and boogie.

There is a mad stride boogie mania of the opening track “Down the Road a Piece,” with Palmer’s left hand maintaining a rock steady baseline on the keyboard, and the right hand irresistibly trilling, riffing, and gliding along over the changes. Simple and elegant, against a backbeat of drums and bass that will not let up until Ms. Palmer says it is. Johnny Viau takes a fine honking saxophone solo, growing, wailing, gruff in all the right ways. What makes Gems so engaging is that the tracks and styles catch you by surprise as they play through; more than a revivalist, more than curator, Palmer, and her bandmates are practitioners of the diversity of the blues, swing, and boogie traditions, and will, at times, throw you a left curve that delights gloriously. In this case, it’s the rousing gospel of “I’ve Been Walking,” with a soul-stirring vocal by the irrepressible Missy Anderson, a pumped-up band creating waves, a solid rhythm and fleet beat for Palmer’s thick, rich chord work and percussive phrasing.

Blues, boogie, and swing, the core of Palmer’s musical soul, are a music often associated with the woes of the road, with hard traveling and the search for a place to rest, if only brief. Perhaps coincidentally, two very fine tracks involve hospitality, hotel, and motel, first with a sly rendition of the chestnut “Heartbreak Hotel", a doleful reading of a tune the song combing the laconic fatalism of a good country ballad and the mournful minimalism of the most despairing, dead-end blues. A bit later, we drive past the track “Motel Mambo,” a lament, a confession, a tell-all in lithe mambo syncopation. Deejha Marie’s sexy, casually jaded vocal outlines the characters and their storied comings and goings. Gilbert Castellanos takes a scintillating trumpet break, fast tonguing and rattling trills that give this song a short and inspired moment of scorch, taking full advantage of Palmer’s rattling piano work. All told, Gems, Volume One is a 20-course meal, the work of a fine musician dedicated to the genius of the blues. Blues, swing, blues, country, gospel, it’s all here, a diverting collection of what Sue Palmer considers her best work since 1980. 

San Diego jazz pianist Sue Palmer, the Queen of Boogie Woogie, the Sultana of Swing, the Lady Who Skates on the 88s. That is to say Ms. Palmer has been an invigorating presence on the live music scene in our busy burg, hustling and bustling her infectious blend of rhythm, riffing, boogie woogie, and barnstorming boogie in bistros, clubs ,cafes and concert halls. Her style, two-fisted, elegant, and rocking without fail, has been captured live and in the studio on a stomping array of over 14 albums, aided with the inestimable brilliance of some of the area’s best musicians.
Her 2018 release Gems, Vol. 1, was a fine-tuned selection of her best tunes from her CD releases over the years. It was a potent 20 songs in a variety of styles—rich in blues, hot in jazz, mournful and soulful as the mood dictated, all of it graced with the signature left hand-right hand keyboarding of Palmer, who never forgets to swing. Elevating with contagious energy, it’s a choice introduction to Palmer’s work and the players who help make the music sizzle like steaks on a hot grill.
And now we have Gems, Vol. 2, a new collection of syncopated savvy. For the blues lovers among our readership, “Soundtrack for a B Movie” fills the room with a blues saxophone chorus punctuated by Palmer’s rattling on the keys and Steve Wilcox’s bittersweet guitar fills, brief but very soulful. “Dark Eyes” is elegant, lilting and emboldened by trombonist April West’s shimmering tone. The band moves smoothly over the walking bass, with Palmer ringing in a spry and lyric solo. Johnny Viau rounds matters out with a smoky saxophone sortie.
“Bricktop” raises the ante with jump blues, the band riding the bass and drums in perfect sympathy, with piano and trombone framing the Lambert, Hendricks and Ross-like chorus that invokes the vagabond spirit with a loose-fit precision. David Mosby takes a sauntering vocal turn on the Jimmy McHugh-Dorothy Fields’ classic “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” Mosby’s voice is big, declarative, embracing, and fitting for the tune’s good cheer, an idea accented with Palmer’s sparkling chord work and an ebullient solo.

The 20 tracks on Gems Vol. 2 are impressive in stylistic range and performance, and the work of the many musicians that Palmer has worked with through the years have created a body of work that succeeds in that rarest quality. That quality is that she and her bandmates are “old school” in the eras they draw from, with none of the moldy aura of mere revivalism. This collection of tracks isn’t destined for the museum where artifacts languish. This music lives when played by the right combination of players committed to keeping things lively on the bandstand and on the dancefloor.

This was originally published in the San Diego Troubadour. Used with kind permission

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


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John Mayall is an occasionally inspired band leader of a group that has long bared his name. He is, though, an awful harmonica player, a mediocre musician, a pedestrian musical intelligence. His main talent is as a talent scout, having an acute ear for the talent of better musicians that would make his marginal efforts to compose a tune and blow a solo seem halfway substantial. Context, in this case, the packaging really, is everything when the center of a concept barely sustains the virtuosity that surrounds it.Mayall is a multi-instrumentalist in the sense that someone in an office or retail situation is a multi-tasker. 

As they have the ability to do several things at the same time poorly, so Mayall is someone who dabbles on harmonica, guitar, keyboards, having a tentative command on blues basics and not much else. I wouldn't even call him an instrumentalist--dabbler pretty much gets what he does. His penchant for finding tasty and distinct blues guitarist was, no doubt, aimed at fleshing out what otherwise would have been a thin, brittle sound from the blues breakers had he featured himself as the featured soloist. Mayall is not an interesting musician. He's hardly a musician at all. I give Mayall full credit for putting together crackerjack bands that have, at times, made it possible for Mayall to release first-rate albums. The albums I listen to especially are USA Union featuring the sadly underrated Harvey Mandel on guitar, Larry Taylor on bass and Sugarcane Harris on violin, and, of course, turning point, with the splendid, Desmond-y sax work of Johnny Almond and Jon Mark on acoustic guitar. Mayall's harmonica work was more texture than anything else, save for the nice workout he accomplishes on" Room to Move"

These were band albums with credible, blues-based tunes with jazz used as a texture, groove, and pacing. Too often, much too often for me, though, Mayall has pushed his harmonica work to the forefront, usually following a hot guitar solo or sultry work out from a reedman, and the effect is like a blowing out a tire when you're cruising at a comfortable rate of speed. It's my view Mayall was playing catch up with what the Butterfield band was doing with their jazz-rock ventures. What Butterfield and his band did on East-West with  Cannonball Adderly's "The Work Song" and the long title improv, released in 1966, is so profoundly ahead of its time that I consider Mayall's contribution to the fusing of jazz, blues, and rock as a bit less important than you do. It's a matter of taste, I realize, and I'm just stating mine, perhaps obnoxiously so. It may well be an unrealistic expectation of mine for musicians described often enough as "band leaders" to be strong, confident, soloists no less than the musicians they hire. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

"BOTH DIRECTIONS AT ONCE": Lost John Coltrane Magnificence Discovered

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Both Directions at Once
--John Coltrane 
Incredibly, what comes to be full-length album of mostly new, previously unheard material from John Coltrane has emerged lo these many years since the man's passing, and it is masterful. What's mind-boggling is that after decades of posthumous Coltrane releases that were previously unheard versions of familiar material --I haven't done a precise count, but it occurs to me that there are enough live versions of Coltrane's disassembly and reconstruction of the  Rodgers and Hammerstein show tune "My Favorite Things" to warrant a series critical comparison in how the saxophonist and his collaborators adjusted their improvisations gig to gig--  but rather something wholly fresh, new, with new compositions and ideas, recorded when this ensemble was at their peak.  The story told as to why this album has surfaced on now comes from Wikipedia, which asserts that the band --Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones-- entered Impulse Records studio in 1963 to lay down the master tape of an album of new material for eventual release. Somewhere in the lapse between that recording and its 2018 release, the original tape was destroyed when the label decided to cut down on expenses regarding storage; what we have here is from a copy of the tape Coltrane had given to his wife. It's not useful to dwell on the reasons for the delay and best, I think, to appreciate how profound this gift of music happens to be.Both Directions at Once, the title, comes from a discussion Coltrane once had with Wayne Shorter at some point, in which had come up the idea of starting their solos in the middle and working their ideas backwards, toward a calmer section that would have been the casual, tentative build up, and then the other way, toward greater fluency, acceleration, intensity from the tenor saxophone's horn, going "both directions at once." You get what they were talking about in mere minutes; Coltrane's playing is serpentine and advances effortlessly through the registers with rail-splitting chromaticism. He darts, dodges, telegraphs and races along melodic lines he creates on initial choruses and subsequently rethinks and rewrites with each return to the song's head; ideas brawl, embrace and interweave in swift, howling glory. The improvisations are as fine, searching and soulful as anything he released in his lifetime. On hand were the members of his Great Quartet, Elvin Jones on drums, McCoy Tyner on piano and Jimmy Garrison on bass. This is a quartet that has weathered time, circumstance and hundreds of hours playing together, with the sinewy yet agile poly-rhythms of the ever-brilliant Jones and the no less masterful Garrison buoying and propelling Tyner's color-rich harmonies and Coltrane's thick, sonic weaves. There is nothing tentative about his disc. It's quite a bit of music from this epoch-defining unit, and there is, of course, nothing better than coming across Coltrane you've haven't bared witness to yet.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

West World

Image result for WEST WORLDSo, what about the season finale of HBO's sci-fi head scratcher West World?I've given up on this series for the simple reason that it's pacing is absolutely glacial. Even with all the repetitive scenes of androids going berserk and murdering as many foul human exploiters as they can get their hands on, the program remained mired in a metaphysical murk, with the whole conceit of androids becoming self -aware and seeking a larger reality and, hence, the freedom to actualize themselves , free of human manipulation becoming a tiresome series of conversations, episode to episode, between different characters, human and android alike, that added more clouds than clarity to the purpose of the ongoing sludge.

Admittedly, the production values, the practical effects and general level of acting and cinematography are spectacular, but plotting is sluggish and, worse, repetitive. Episode to episode, you feel you've spent a week in a motionless traffic jam, staring at the same scenery for days on end. Blade Runner , both the original masterpiece and the equally ingenious sequel 2049, follow the same basic premise--A.I.s searching for freedom and their own identity--but they do so in a manner that involves more questions of social and philosophical dilemma, and do not freight their plots with stultifying chatter. They blend the action well with the dramatically perplexing rather well; they maintain your attention in ways that do not cheat the narrative. West World is an expensive showcase that drags its feet and mumbles when it should be clear.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Brand: nervous phony

Image result for russell brand as idiotYeah, he's a bright fellow, but Russell Brand is a blithering, blurting idiot who seems constitutionally incapable of having a conversation. His lefty-anarchist talking points are well and good as far it goes, but they are old ideas, old rhetoric, old insights. He has all the wretched traits of someone who regards them-self as smarter than his or her fellows because they have a library card, by which I mean that Brand is an autodidact who cannot help but talk over those he's in nominal conversations with, and that he cannot resist fatal doses of sarcasm against who ever is hosting the show he's been invited on. Sarcasm is a piss-poor substitute for wit, and it's a defensive posture. It is meant to keep others at bay so closer scrutiny of provocative statements is well-nigh impossible. It sends people away rather than invite them to interrogate the notions with piercing questions and counter-assertions. It's the mark of a nervous phony.

He reminds of the kind of the sort who reads Ayn Rand at 17 and is convinced that they are a genius being oppressed by collectivists and freeloaders; the sad part is that they never grow out of it. Brand, in his variation of bad manners, is similar because he discovered Marx, Chomsky and all manner of post-Soviet leftism and used the abstractions to inflate a personality that has the charm of a box of rusty zippers. It's not that I'm not sympathetic to much of what Brand is talking about. I and everyone else, though, have a choice as to who we listen to about issues and solutions for intractable problems.

For the good of the causes he says he supports, Brand is their worst enemy, a self-regarding brat with a vocabulary who cannot or will not get over himself long enough to test the merits of his notions in honest exchanges. His recitations of much smarter left-wing theorists, be they Guy DeBord, Marcuse or Foucault, the rich litany of social contradictions and self-confliction does not really register more than the accelerated data spew an eidetic savant would relentlessly hose you down with; fidgety as he is, raggedy as he looks, Brand is the poster boy of the man who forgot to refill his prescriptions. He is manic, perhaps he should be under professional care. The tragedy is that sooner or later his audience will find a new shiny object to distract themselves with and Russell Brand will be consigned to the Hollywood Squares ghetto of used up celebrities. But even that doesn't exist as an option anymore. As more people die of disease, gunshot wounds , unnatural disasters and the like, this braying donkey will sicken the audience that deigned to lend him an ear and both eyes.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Snyder and Rand

Image may contain: shoes and outdoorI am a  fan of filmmaker Zack Snyder 's movies. Also, I hold Ayn Rand in low regard.  Yes, those two statements have a relationship, if only for the purposes of this minor rant. His reported intention to do a new film version of that miserable human's novel The Fountainhead ways heavy on my soul and forces me to admit that for all his graces as a visual stylist who is able to bring the baroque dynamics of the graphic novel to the big screen as very few can, the man, it seems, find's Rand's fascination with rabid individualism irresistible. My background was in liberal arts, with a heavy concentration in Literature and intellectual history; Rand, however compelling her notions can be too many, is a wooden, cliché-prone writer, and her worship of genius and the provision, outlined by Howard Roark in the trial scene of the novel and film, is that the work of geniuses must never be interfered nor tampered with by the masses. This sets up the rationale that billionaires and corporate heads are geniuses by definition, and nothing they are responsible for in their accumulation of capital can be tampered with, restricted, regulated, or otherwise be subject to the scrutiny of the public interest. It's a slippery slope--the libertarian quest for absolute liberty meets an anti-democratic, totalitarian impulse in a dark, intellectual back alley. Rand's apparently admires these men to the extent that she condones sexual assault of powerful men of "genius", as in Roark's taking of Dagny against her protests, and terrorist destruction, as in Roark's destruction of the Public Housing projects when he discovered officials altered his designs against his wishes. 

Synder's admiration for the novel is problematic; his Superman was a hero struggling to find himself as he tried to Do the Right thing expected of him; despite the travails of what the public through at him, he found a way to act in good faith, to serve the public good in selfless fashion. Howard Roark is a self-involved egotist willing to destroy projects dedicated to helping the needy if his personal code were transgressed upon. That defines not a hero, but a sociopath, a menace to civilians and democratic social order. It's my hope, down the line, that a director with Snyder's huge gifts as a film artist finds a better subject for a film.
There's not really much Snyder can do to interpret Fountainhead; it's meaning and intent are pretty much cemented in place ; also, it's highly unlikely the estate of Ayn Rand would allow any film director, no matter how famous, to deviate from the propaganda points that the novel’s mainstay and create something legitimately artful. In Watchman, he took Moore's ideas that are those who exceed societal norms and concluded, I think, that the consequences of that were dire that society paid for as a whole. Both BvS and MoS were matters of some going from doing things his way, by his own counsel, and learning to serve a greater good where the results were tangibly good for the lives of others. By the time JL came out, we get the idea of rugged individualists and egocentric recluses learning to be part of something greater than themselves, very un-Randian.

King Vidor did a brilliantly over the top version of The Fountainhead in 1949 starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, based on Rand's original screenplay. Though I hate Rand's ideas and consider her one of the worst things to happen to American culture in the 20th century, the film is a guilty pleasure, full of phallic symbolism and visual equations that sex is power, and that power belongs to powerful men. She was phallocentric and constructed the pathetic fallacy with obvious, groan-worthy metaphors for her beliefs--architect=MALE, architecture/buildings= ERECTIONS. Her imagination was nearly pornographic. Her story ideas or cardboard intellectualizing wouldn't survive Snyder's extravagance and spectacle, and Snyder would never be taken seriously again by any of his fans who regard him as subtler than the critical culture currently thinks. Snyder is brilliant, but Ayn Rand is awful, not a friend of democracy who worships powerful men. She is an awful prose writer, a lead-footed novelist, and a sorry philosopher who offers a thin intellectual veneer to being mean, callous and ruthless in the pursuit of your own ends. Her quest for liberty winds up with autocratic or fascistic leaders. I would have thought Snyder had a more sophisticated view of all this than this cute – rate rendition of Nietzsche’s most misrepresented ideas.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A man without limits is not without wanting

Image may contain: textVidal is alternately over rated and under rated as a novelist, but it is his genius as an essayist that will cement his reputation in place. Literature, politics, films, theater, social custom--his was the work of the true public intellectual, considering trends, ideas , schemes that effect the social body.It's easy to think Vidal likes a certain amount of humanity in his scouring of the culture , but I think that might be one of his blessings. 

He does not, over all, pad his essays about literature, film or other cultural phenomenon with an expected Liberal Arts tic of insisting that what he's inspecting is an advancement . Instead of rose colored glasses, he prefers coated in Crisco. On politics I think he is rather bloodless and elevated in his No pronouncements--at some point it seems he felt he had to out do WF Buckley for patrician airs, but from the Left. 

It's essays on literature I find rewarding over and over and over again as I go to him for judgments from a man who is well read and who regards the writing of fiction to be something of a sacred trust , owing to art but finally meant to present readerships with complicated tales of complicated, comic, tragic characters in hairy times , folks whose tales help readerships experience something new and provoke to think outside their comfort zones. He was cranky in this regard, and its here I find a fiery advocate for the well written novel.

His prose style is perfect for his essays, especially his literary cave diving, but his fiction wordage is High Competence . Not horrible, not awkward, occasionally evocative, but rather flat so far as euphony is concerned. He is a good novelist, not a great one, a professional writer who, though not a genius, has written some masterpieces . I would say Burr, 1876 and Lincoln are in that arena. He wrote things, many things, that are just exercises, novels he wrote as though to win a bet. I have always found his satire to be mean, smug and fatally unfunny.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The train keeps a rolling

Image may contain: 1 personSad, but remember that the talented and insightful Anthony Bourdain was a bad heroin addict before he got clean and began to write books. He continued to drink, alcoholically according to some who knew him, which makes sense. If one is addicted to one drug, they are addicted to them all, and abstinence and a good support system are the best ways to learn to live a fulfilling life without depressives of any kind. I suspect the alcohol-fueled his depression. I have, incidentally, nearly 31 years of sobriety and "clean time" and have yet to see a junkie who kicked dope and then go on to drink successfully. There were two results of those who drank after quitting dope. They either sobered up entirely or died too soon. I feel the loss --he was a fine man. But I suspect his lot would have been better had he not continued to drink so copiously.
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The Doors were a mixed bag for me; the first two albums are among the most important rock albums of all time, with the remainder alternating between the proverbial poles of brilliance and balderdash. As a band, they were simply sublime and unique, with the odd combination of blues, flamenco, classical, jazz, Artaud, and epic theater being crafted in their hands to create a sound and feel that was singular and instantly identifiable. As a vocalist, Jim Morrison was often as evocative as the greatest fans proclaim, and it fit the half-awake twilight that seemed to be his constant state of consciousness. As a poet, though, I thought he was simply awful, fragmented, crypto-mystic surrealism that, save for some striking and memorable lines, collapsed from its flimsy elisions and obtuse vagaries. In his posthumous collections, the pieces read too often, like the notebook jottings of an introspective 17-year-old. I say that as an introspective 17 year and is now an introspective 65-year-old. Morrison might have become the poet he wanted to be had he written, edited, and finesse his work as he desired when he left for Paris. I will say, though, that being the vocalist in the Doors allowed him to go through his writings, his poems and select many of the stronger passages for the band's more theatrical songs. Ironically, the Doors seemed to be an institutional editor for Morrison's words, forcing the bard to decide which of his jottings was actually the most powerful, concise, emphatic. In all, a fine and well-researched piece, Jon, another fine piece of historical journalism.


The Yardbirds and Aerosmith effectively took this song behind the garage and reupholstered it until it was nothing but a bulldozing pain to rape mentality. Tiny Bradshaw's original reminds us of something more sensual, fun, swinging because we have an analogy of dance partners working here, not combatants.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

two paragraps

1.The American was the first Henry James novel I read, and it's a great one, about a nouveau riche American named Christopher Newman who, on his first visit to Europe, rather naively seeks respite from the vulgarities of his native country, only to learn of the great and gross things about Europe in the course of his search. One of the first writers to deal with the American experience in the Old World, and a relevant one it remains. And I love the slippery syntax of James' prose. American business , arrogant and smug in its focus on pragmatic efficiency, meets the Old World, which hangs on to tradition , custom and class in the face of rapidly encroaching Internationalist modernism.  


2. I've been harsh on Ezra Pound's poetry since my first full exposure to his work in college; as a lyricist I thought he was grandiose without rhythm, diffuse without those pockets of lyric genius that make critical interpretation worth the effort, prolix without purpose. There was more poetry in his critical rants , really, and he was a good scout for poets far superior to himself. Lately, I had the idea that maybe I would revisit him by picking up the Selected Poems of Ezra Pound, the same text I used in college , and see if being forty years older has allowed me to catch up with this man's fabled genius. Two days later, the ground beneath Pound's reputation remains charred and lifeless. This crypto- fascist was as much as a poet as Trump is a brilliant business man. What those two share is one tangible skill, that of self promotion and making millions your greatness is genuine. And both, it seems, harbor an affection for political strong men.