News and Notes
Despite playing in the shadow of big brother Cannonball, Nat Adderley managed to carve out a sizeable jazz niche for himself, blending his cornet into a variety of intriguing line-ups for the Riverside label. On this 1960 date, Adderley is joined up front by Sam Jones on cello and Wes Montgomery on guitar. Add a topnotch rhythm section and the result is a session that swings with a relaxed confidence. On the title track and Cannonball Adderley's propulsive "Sack of Woe," the group sounds like they'd played together for years. It's a shame they didn't.
Gardner paints an unromantic picture of the lives of two working-class boxers in Stockton, California. With echoes of Steinbeck and glimpses of Raymond Carver, the clean, spare prose beautifully reveals the bleak struggles of an entire class--trainers, wives, fieldhands, barflies. The result is a panorama that is multifaceted and vibrant.
Carla Bozulich writes songs that are dark, uncomfortable, and filled with raw sexual imagery. The band she fronts takes those songs all over the musical map. And though they are often placed in the alt-country camp, the Geraldine Fibbers don't fit neatly into any category. The music contains varied and elusive ingredients from lullaby to punk. Still, identifying and labeling the parts is irrelevant -- the whole is greater than the sum.
Too Far to Care
Upbeat country honk, sure, but there's something more here. Rhett Miller's vocals remind me more of Aztec Camera than Hank Williams. It's sweet stuff, with viciously infectious melodies, singalong lyrics, and a doubletime shuffle beat. Check out "Timebomb," "Streets of Where I'm From," and "Niteclub."
As you know, there are no more Coca-Colas in Mississippi. There aren't any cokes anywhere. They
changed them, they did away with them, the fuckers. Except at my farmhouse. I have approximately two thousand
seven hundred and forty-four of them in those little wooden flats that they used to ship them around in, faded,
red and historic.
When I have a bad day at work I will go home and throw three or four of them against the rocks in the back pasture.
--- from "Mississippi"
If You're Feeling Sinister
This album made almost everyone's top-ten list last year, ending up at #8 on the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop Poll. I'm not going to buck the trend: With Sinister, the enigmatic Scottish band (with no Belle or Sebastian in the lineup) has produced ten shimmering, melancholy pop lozenges that melt in your mind, not in your headphones. You'd be hard-pressed to find a sweeter batch of sad songs this side of The Smiths' Hatful of Hollow. Naming breakout tracks would be silly, since the collection is stellar top to bottom, but if my arm is twisted, I'll admit that my favorite is "The Fox in the Snow."
Resident Evil 2
When it was released, the original was widely regarded as the best game ever created for the Sony PlayStation, and Resident Evil 2 more than exceeds the original. This time around, players explore a police station and sewer system, tackling new creatures and scavenger hunts. If you've played the original, much of the interface is the same, making the learning curve a little less steep. If you've never played Resident Evil, get ready for the kind of layered, complicated game that your PlayStation was made for.
Too Much Coffee Man
Too Much Coffee Man is both an everyman and a superhero. Likewise, artist Shannon Wheeler possesses special powers that most of us don't have. He is the creator of a work that is rife with existentialism and issues of self-image. And, oh yeah, it's funny! So join our hero on his adventures with Too Much Espresso Guy and Too Much German White Chocolate Woman With Almonds. Revel in the joys of caffeine addiction: the euphoria, the paranoia, the nausea. As advertised, it's "good to the last panel."
Earlier this week, Chuck won the Pulitzer Prize for Black Zodiac. Here's a poem from his 1981 book, The Southern Cross:
Gate City Breakdown
Like a vein of hard coal, it was the strike
We fantasized, the pocket of sure reward we sidestepped
the roadblocks for
In Southwest Virginia, seamed in its hillside
Above the north fork of the Holstun River.
One afternoon before Christmas
In 1953, we crossed the bridge from Tennessee on a
Churchill and Bevo Hammond and Philbeck and I,
All home for the holidays,
On the back road where they chased us, we left the
Sheriff's Patrol in their own dust,
And washed ours down with Schlitz on the way home.
Jesus, it's so ridiculous, and full of self-love,
The way we remember ourselves,
&nbs p; and the dust we leave . . .
Remember me as you will, but remember me once
Slide-wheeling around the curves,
letting it out on the other side of the line.
Never mind that it's only a CD single (or an EP or whatever you call it these days), when the kids from Hoboken put out a record, you gotta sit up and take notice. For fans of 1990's Fakebook, here you'll find seven eclectic cover tunes from the likes of William Devaughn, The Beach Boys, Gram Parsons, and The Kinks. The magnificent gem of this collection (can you say "Speeding Motorcyle?") has got to be Sandy Denny's "By The Time It Gets Dark." Delish.
If Beale Street Could Talk
"Being in trouble can have a funny effect on the mind. I don't know if I can explain this. You go through some days and you seem to be hearing people and you seem to be talking to them and you seem to be doing your work, or, at least, your work gets done; but you haven't seen or heard a soul and if someone asked you what you have done that day you'd have to think awhile before you could answer. But, at the same time, and even on the self-same day--and this is what is hard to explain--you see people like you never saw them before. They shine as bright as a razor. Maybe it's because you see people differently than you saw them before your trouble started. Maybe you wonder about them more, but in a different way, and this makes them very strange to you. Maybe you get scared and numb, because you don't know if you can depend on people for anything, anymore."
The Complete Rich-R-Tone 78s
Bristol, Virginia, 1948: In a deliriously high-pitched croon, the singer relates the sorrows of an itinerant existence. He steps from the mic and a keening fiddle takes over, swallowing the melody in mournful swoops, itself superseded by lightning-paced runs up and down a mandolin fretboard. Old-school hillbilly sounds encounter their radical, upstart cousin, bluegrass. The collection is keening and lovely, by some of the true originators of American music.
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, `What is it?'
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
-- from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
In the Company of Men
Among the many labels hung on last year's In the Company of Men, the two that stick are inevitably "brilliant" and "controversial." The tag "black comedy" is a little less apt, however, since the film is basically about emotional manipulation and abuse. Sure, there's humor, but evil dominates. The comedy comes mostly from the character traits of the villians, which is a brilliant stroke since bad people rarely look like villians, with ominous wardrobes and angry, humorless dispositions. They look just like you and me. The DVD version of the film is well worth checking out, as it comes with commentary tracks from the director and the actors, all of whom did a brave, beautiful job on the movie.
On March 30, the Arlington, Virginia based Simple Machines closed its doors forever. For eight years Jenny Toomey and Kristin Thomson put out vital music by bands like Ida, Scrawl, Retsin, and their own Tsunami. The label distinguished itself by releasing innovative projects such as the "Working Holiday" 7-inch series and the "Neopolitan Metropolitan" triple box set. But perhaps their most important contribution will be the booklet "An Introductory Mechanic's Guide to Putting Out Records, Cassettes, and CD's." Who knows how many fledgling record labels have started with this guide close at hand.
With the new HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon bringing Jim Lovell's story to the screen for the second time in three years (the first was Ron Howard's Apollo 13), you're probably familiar with the aborted 1970 moonshot, even if you didn't live through it. In this book, Lovell and Kluger give the story less of a Hollywood spin, sticking closer to the facts of the mission. Still, the coordinated effort that brought Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert back from the Moon to the Earth is no less dramatic in a literal retelling.
Mission of Burma
The classic Burma tracks "This is Not a Photograph" and "Peking Spring" anchor this collection. The other eight cuts, dating from the band's early-Eighties fadeout, also offer their own sonic merits, particularly the insistent, driving rhythms of drummer Peter Prescott, who later went on to form the Volcano Suns. This album is a nice companion to the Rykodisc M.o.B. reissues.
Dear Scott / Dear Max
Subtitled The Fitzgerald-Perkins Correspondence, this collection offers a fascinating peek into the pair's friendship as well as their relationship as author and editor. The book begins with Fitzgerald's confident submission of This Side of Paradise in 1919: "It is a well-considered finished whole this time and I think its a more crowded (in the best sense) piece of work than has been published in this country for some years." It ends days before Fitzgerald's death in 1940 with exchanges of literary gossip and an update on the unfinished The Love of the Last Tycoon: "This is the first day off I have taken for many months and I just wanted to tell you the book is coming along and that comparatively speaking all is well."
To Run More Smoothly
Recorded in Garner's apartment and practice space, then finished with pop genie Chris Stamey at his Modern Recording Studio in Chapel Hill, this is a delicate, lovely record. Garner's full-throated singing recalls Linda Thompson and Syd Straw, and is the focus of the music. The record is eclectic, eccentric, great: her cover of Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings" in particular is sublime, her voice wrapped like silk in Katie Gentile's dive-bombing violin overdubs. "Intuition" demonstrates the kind of on-edge Downtown pop she's come to master, propelled by a percussive, repeating guitar line, tinkling toy pianos, train whistle, and subtle percussive accompaniment.
Dog Day Afternoon
Al Pacino and John Cazale, fresh from their turn as Corleone brothers in the Godfather series, play a stranger brand of criminal here. Pacino's character has planned a simple bank robbery to get money for his wife's medical bills. Unfortunately, things go wrong right from the start. Before the day is out, the police, the media, and half of Brooklyn is right outside the bank. Despite its true-to-life origins (Dog Day is based on an actual incident), the film is largely a comedy, bittersweet because the humor comes from the hopeless optimism of the average Joe.