music


16
Nov 22

The beginning of Thanksgiving

I finally figured out how to take photos of autumn leaves. It is the shutterbug’s lament, how to express the majesty of autumn. Even the best, high definition lens, top-of-the-line processor, perfectly saturated image leaves something out. You can’t get the emotion, the smells, the crispness of the air and the texture of the foliage in a photograph.

So, of course, here we are at the end of fall, the beginning of winter (it has been snowing again) but I finally figured out something important.

Night, and light.

This stand of American sweetgums is right by the parking deck I use on campus. There’s a nice set of street lights that, just now, are doing some quality work. Those red and greens are terrific.

I would have stayed to admire them, but I mentioned it has been snowing again meaning it is just cold. All the time.

I stopped by the grocery store, hoping to get ahead of the holiday rush, and found I might have been already been too late. There are turkeys …

… but not the size we want. On the left side of the case a bunch of eight and nine pounders. On the right side they go well into the 20+ pound range. I got a bigger one (More leftovers!) but it is sensibly oversized. Someone else needs that 29-pound bird. I need to leave room for all of the other tasty things that will be on the table.

We wondered about freezer room, but that’s not a problem. I could put this thing outside, in the shade on the windward side of the house, and it’d probably stay frozen. I did not — we have coyotes within earshot, after all — but I could have. It’s cold, is what I’m saying.

There are also turkeys living on the hillside behind us, but I don’t think those turkeys and this bird would … ahhhh … get along, seeing as how mine doesn’t have much to gobble about.

Since I mentioned, yesterday, the band playing in the studio, here’s that show. Hank Ruff and The Hellbenders:

He’s popular, and the studio was full of people who enjoyed their set. Tonight was sports, and, because we’re in the upside down, World Cup soccer talk, in November. I spent the rest of the evening reading, and being smothered by cats, who are presently desperate for attention, and body heat.

It’s cold.


15
Nov 22

‘It’s all pop music,’ is a thing I said today

Tonight there was a band in the studio. Hank Ruff is a recent IU grad, and he’s making it as a performer. Beats grad school classes! He’s been on one of our shows before, just before Covid, he said. He would have been a sophomore then and I had no memory of that … until I looked it up just now.

Look how young everyone was! February, 2020:

Since then, a pandemic happened. Charlee went home to Green Bay and became a reporter there. Kendall is reporting in Milwaukee today. Hank topped the iTunes all genre chart for a day, knocking Encanto out of the top spot, which he rightly, casually, mentions.

I’d mention that every day.

Anyway, they have new single coming out in January, Hank Ruff and his band played for us this evening. I don’t know how many country acts have a saxophone player these days, but the guy in the far background has figured out how to make his spot work in this group.

I was going to make a “Is that country music?” joke, but about that time they played a song that Hank said his dad wrote decades ago. The song was “I’m Not Crazy (But I’m Out of Her Mind)” and that’s about as country a song title as you can imagine.

Safe to say they’re on their way, too. He said he and The Hellbenders played 15 shows in September. Good for them. They played three songs, ran their own audio and did a thoroughly professional load out.

I wonder where local band members go after they’re done for the evening.

“Evening.” Their mini-set was wrapped by 7:15 p.m.

After the shows I pointed the car to the house, checked the freezer for turkey room, set up some sanding for later this week, heated leftover chili for dinner, petted the cats and straightened up my home office. It needs more than a straightening, but it was in such a state that a straightening itself was a transformation.

Now I’m just waiting for the Artemis rocket to launch. Maybe everything will work right for their window, anyway. (Sometimes being a fan of science and amazing thing leads to long hours.)

Let’s spend some of that time on the Re-Listening Project. I’ve just working my way through all of my old CDs, in the order I acquired them. It’s fun, it’s nostalgic, it’s an excuse to post videos.

First up today, a soundtrack for a movie that was bad then and hasn’t improved with age. The movie gets terms like “cult hit” and “zeitgeist,” and the dreaded “mixed reviews,” but sometimes words get used without the writer knowing what they really mean. It made good box office money, and most importantly the music was good! Good enough, I suppose. The soundtrack was a platinum hit in Australia and Canada, and twice certified as platinum in the United States. Presumably that was on the strength of Lisa Loeb’s breakthrough single.

I’m sure I bought this because it had three or four songs that I wouldn’t buy on their own. I can tell you how important this was. I never listen to the thing. Almost never have.

There’s a good Juliana Hatfield Three song in there, and it’s always good to have The Posies to point too. Dinosaur Jr. makes you seem well-rounded, and there’s Loeb’s smash hit, not that I bought this for the Loeb song. “Stay” was good, still is, but “Stay” was already everywhere. And then there’s a Me Phi Me classic. It’s aged far, far better than this movie.

Maybe I should look up Me Phi Me’s full catalog.

Up next, the followup to Radiohead’s surprising smash hit, “Creep.” That song took over the airwaves off their debut album, and so the pressure was on when it came to producing and releasing “The Bends.” The record broke the top 10 in Belgium, Scotland, and on the UK Albus chart. Certified as a gold record in at least four countries and platinum in the U.S. and New Zealand and it’s a multi-platinum record in Canada and the UK. They rolled out seven singles, half the record, between September of 1994 and July of 1996. The angular guitars and the emotional falsetto helped draw a line in British rock of the period.

This was great car music for me. Probably a lot of late nights in the car. I drove a lot during this part of college, and so there was me, and, often, Thom Yorke.

“Blackstar” wasn’t a single, but was definitely a late night, car-clinging-to-asphalt track. That chorus is really something.

“Sulk” was a political song, addressing a 1987 mass shooting in England. Pay attention to what Ed O’Brien is doing with the effects on his guitar here.

Title track? Title track.

The Beatles, The Smiths, a David Bowie pastiche, and as critically divisive as a pop song can be, I guess.

After this brief toe dip in Brit rock, we’ll return to Americana pop … probably on Thursday, only on the Re-Listening Project.


11
Nov 22

Whurrwhurrwhurr

After work I rushed right back to the house — because where else am I going to go? — and hustled right inside. I wanted to put my bike on the trainer. Well, wanted to isn’t exactly the right word. I wanted to ride my bike, but it was cold and almost dark, so the trainer it is. Or, rather, it was, since this already happened.

I rode in the desert, with snowcapped mountains ahead of me. Whurrwhurrwhurr is the sound the back wheel my bike makes on the roller.

At the conclusion of my ride people that don’t exist threw confetti, which … also … doesn’t exist. That doesn’t mean this isn’t still a nice little feeling, though, after 23 quick little miles.

And now I’m that much closer — 23 miles closer, to be precise — to making this my third biggest year ever. I should do that this weekend, make 2022 my third best year. The second spot is an easy possibility after that. Not sure if I can set a personal best.

But if I don’t, there’s only myself to blame, and none of this matters anyway. So far, though, the 2020s are giving me a workout, and that’s what matters.

It is time, once again, to catch up on the Re-Listening Project. I’m going through all of my old CDs, in order, and enjoying the nostalgia and the music and trying to write a little something about it. It pads out the site and burdens you with music I like — or at least music that I liked once upon a time. These aren’t reviews, they’re whimsy, as so much of music should be.

I still like a lot of “Happy Nowhere,” it turns out. This was Dog’s Eye View’s debut. This was Peter Stuart’s band. He got a break by opening for Tori Amos and Cracker. He warmed up crowds for Counting Crows and then signed a record deal. With that in hand he formed this band. One single got a lot of airplay, which is how I found them. He apparently wrote the hit in 15 minutes, while nursing a hangover.

So, as hangovers go, that worked out fairly well, I guess?

I don’t remember all of these details from the narrative part of the video. In fact, the biggest memory of that video I have is how he’s smiling singing this song that, on the face of it, should be pretty sad.

Also, the instrumentation. It’s infectious.

This came out in 1996 and there was a music store in town that let you listen to things before you bought them. This was a great idea for customers, but I’m sure it had drawbacks for managers and employees. I don’t know if that’s why I have this record, or I picked it up just on the strength of that single, but here I am, an embarrassing amount of decades later and I still sing along with almost every track on the thing.

This guitar, Stuart’s voice, it all just works.

I sang this one, with attitude, well into my 30s.

I consider this a perfect mid-90s rock ‘n’ roll song.

This always felt like a beach ballad, and I’ve never listened to it on a beach, so there you go. I always wonder if this is a character song or biographical. I wonder who he’s singing to. Sometimes I wonder who other people sing this to.

I never sang this ballad with a particular person in mind. Weird.

The good tunes continue. Car, headphones, shower, whenever.

I never understood how this record, and the subsequent work, didn’t get more label support. That was a real problem on the second album. It’s just a business choice — most of which are obvious in retrospect, I guess, but back then? Again, mid-90s … a bit of honesty, a bit of heartfelt rawness … this fits the mold without complaint.

I loved this record. Always enjoyed DEV, and Peter Stuart. He released three more records — two of them will show up here eventually — before disappearing. Recently I learned he’s a clinical psychologist in Texas. I read an interview with him and he came off as so content and focused. It was one of the better Where Are They Now? stories.

Anyway, more from him later. We must also consider here, today, the remastered version of Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert. I’m not a proactive Clapton fan, let’s say. I appreciate the work, but it’s just not something I’ve sought out.

I have no recollection of why I have this. I have no real recollection of spending a lot of time with it, either. (Like you can recall all of the reasons why you did, or didn’t listen to the second song of an album you purchased 26 years ago … )

But I listened to it this week and … it needs to be re-remastered. Which, hey, makes since. The original came out in 1973, Pete Townshend got Clapton on stage and helped re-start his career. And, given Clapton’s heroin-addled reclusiveness, his star power and the different music ecosystem of the time, this was probably a tantalizing thing for his pre-existing fans. (The original vinyl held six tracks. I have 14 here.) In that light, there’s a lot to appreciate. Also, this disc was released in 1995, and I heard all of this for the first time in 1996 or 1997, let’s say. We’re farther, today, from the remastering than the remastering was from the original. (Sentences like that come far too rapidly to me these days, and that’s middle age to me.)

As much as anything, that the stage also held Townshend, Steve Winwood, Ronnie Wood and Jim Capaldi was probably part of my initial appeal — and that pays off. This record highlights Winwood as much as anything. Here he is now.

The blue-eyed soul and blues between them works pretty well. It sounds and feels a bit raw. It’s all hasty and seems largely unrehearsed. That’s part of the charm. AllMusic wrote a retrospective review, which seems appropriate. The author concludes, “Today, the album is an adequate live document, though one can find better performances of the songs on other records.”

As for other records, the next time the Re-Listening Project comes around we’ll gloss over a soundtrack and, probably, something a little more contemporary to the point of purchase.


2
Nov 22

A mishmash, a hodgepodge, poorly covered

OK, one more Catober bonus. Phoebe and Poseidon thank you for your attention. Now they want some more pets. And, also, some snacks, if you have any.

If you somehow didn’t come to this page every day in October, then you might have missed out on some kitty cuteness. Fear not! This link has the complete Catober collection.

I have no content filler for November. I should really work on that.

Visited the grocery store last night, for the third time in as many days. I had to pick up a few birthday cards. If you stand there, muttering, long enough, you can find a card that isn’t outrageously priced. That’s what I learned last night. Took some time to learn that lesson.

Also strolled by the produce section, and thought I’d pick up a few different varieties. An economist inspired me.

So, for today’s lunch, I present you with the Autumn Glory.

I can tell you this about my first Autumn Glory. It was surprisingly juicy. It holds a mild, even sweetness. The label at the store, and what I’ve found online, said I’d find hints of cinnamon and caramel. But my palette might not be sophisticated enough — or perhaps my peanut butter sandwich overwhelmed it — and no cinnamon or caramel notes were detected.

It had an odd skin texture, almost rubbery. But the apple was surprisingly consistent all the way down to the core.

I suspect I will eat an autumn glory apple again, if for no other reason than I purchased two of them.

I’m finally making real progress in Andrew Ritchie’s biography of Major Taylor. This is when the champion cyclist was traveling and racing around the world — an exhausting proposition at the beginning of the 20th century, I’m sure.

I worked my way through his peak racing years, his retirement, return and final retirement. This is where biographies get tough, particularly in Taylor’s case. He fell into obscurity and some sort of financial difficulty. There’s two decades to work through. Two decades after you’ve been either the toast, or target of racist hatred, depending on where he was. What happens in those years?

I guess we’ll find out in the next few nights. There’s another book to get to, after all. There’s always another book.

We can quickly work the two most recent CDs from the Re-Listening Project. One is hardly obscure … Stone Temple Pilots “Purple,” was their second record. Scott Weiland had quickly hit his stride and was stepping away from the grunge prototype. Seattle was still in there, but this was STP as they should be. “Purple” debuted at number one, was six-times platinum in the United States, three-times platinum in Canada, two-times in Australia and also in New Zealand. It was, in fact, one of the best selling albums of the 1990s.

This record is also one of the ways I know I had too much free time in my freshman year of college. We realized that each of the evenly-numbered tracks were huge, or going to be. (The odd number songs are all pedestrian, at best.) Indeed, we were right. I have a recollection of exactly where I was standing in our place when this epiphany set in.

Track 2 was “Vasoline,” track 4 was “Interstate Love Song” track 6 and track 8 were “Pretty Penny” and “Big Empty,” respectively. The first two topped the Mainstream Rock chart and hit number two on the Alternative Airplay chart. “Pretty Penny” somehow stalled out at number 12, “Big Empty” got to the third spot. Track 10 was never released as a single, but it has its moments.

The best song on the record, then as now, is the hidden track … and it’s number 12. And this, weirdly, isn’t even performed by a member of the band, but by a Seattle musician named Richard Peterson.

Somehow, learning it isn’t one of the STP guys changes my impression of the whole thing. (So … thanks … world wide web …) But it also deepens the hilarity. (So thanks, world wide web!)

From magazine interviews:

Scott: “The guy is a kind of autistic savant who has this bizarre obsession with Johnny Mathis. He follows him around on tour when he’s in the north west, and he collects money on the street to fund his own recordings. We kept playing this song on tour before we went out, and it seemed fitting to put it on the end of the album.” (Melody Maker – 6/4/94)

Scott: “No one would be able to write a song like that for us. We had it played before our live shows.” (Sub-Line Magazine Germany – 8/1/94)

That song wasn’t on the Japanese edition of the disc, and they lost out. (They had, for whatever reason, a David Bowie cover.)

The fun of the Re-Listening Project to me, aside from the occasional flash of some place or time or activity associated with a song, is the mystery of what’s going to play next. I am putting these in my disc changer in order, but I don’t read the disc first. So that beat between one and the next is kind of fun. Do I remember what’s next? Am I going to like the first track? How much of this am I going to skip over? What poorly constructed paragraphs am I going to write about this? Does this hold up? Do I still like it? Did I ever like it?

The answers, this time, were “Not this time. Nope. A lot of it. Not much. Not at all. In no way. And, finally, not really, no.

There was just something weird going on in 1995 that let 311 rise to major airplay. I bought this — or picked it up in a giveaway stack, I don’t recall — on the strength of the single and have pretty much regretted it ever since. The record hit number 12 on the Billboard 200, and topped the Heatseekers Albums
chart and “Down” found it’s way atop Modern Rock Tracks, and the blue album sold three million copies, so I’m not kicking anybody here. And, the band is still doing it. They’ve released 13 studio records over the years, so good for them. But, man, this whole record is one riff, off-key harmonies and somehow a bunch of white dudes from Omaha put a little ska and reggae together with two chords and decided to rap and … we … accepted that?

This was not quite two years before Dre unleashed Eminem, so that explains a lot, or so I have convinced myself.

This is the only song that sounds different than the rest of the record, and they could only keep that uniqueness for 52 seconds.

OK, this one is a little different from the rest, too. But you can’t hear it without thinking, “Guys from Omaha. Yep.” And you can get that sentence out exactly twice before that same lick comes back.

It’s the whole album, and it never gets played, and this is why. Though they are still touring, music venues, Hard Rock hotels, festivals, cruises, so this works for some people. But it’s never worked for me.

Tomorrow: No music, more apples, and a bike ride!


1
Nov 22

Happy November to you

Did you enjoy Catober? It is one of my favorite times of the year. Phoebe and Poe are good sports the whole month as I try to put one camera or another in their face. And they cooperated right until this weekend, when I was trying to get a traditional bonus photo. If you missed a day, you can click that link, above, and see them all in reverse chronological order.

It was cold, you see, and we’d just made breakfast on Sunday morning. Put the stove cover back on, which I built to keep cats off the stove. So they sit on the cover, or near it, to enjoy the radiant heat from the slowly cooling stove and oven. This is the routine. Part of it, anyway.

Good thing I made that cover, I guess.

I saw this scene as I was parking this morning. This is the parking deck a block from our building, adjacent to where the old hotel/dorm/office building was. In fact, this is that removal project. You can’t really see much of this from my office anymore, but the heavy machinery work continues, and a dad thought enoufh of it to bring his kid. And they had a time.

They’re busting up cement with the big machines. Big repetitive sounds. The kid is bouncing in dad’s arms in time. It’s the cutest thing.

This is quite the treat for both of them, I’m sure.

We ran across this in Indianapolis on Saturday, and it didn’t really fit in yesterday’s sparse entry, so I’m putting it here.

“We thought. You. Was A. Toad!”

The soundtrack to “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” in a future installment of the Re-Listening Project. Speaking of which …

There’s not much new you can say about 1977’s “Bat Out of Hell.” The Meat Loaf, Jim Steinman debut is one of the best selling records in the history of everywhere. Meat Loaf became an actor and enjoyed a well-deserved musical renaissance in the 1990s, but “Bat Out of Hell is the mark. It is certified 14-times platinum in the U.S. and spent 522 weeks on the charts in the UK. It’s also 26-times platinum in Australia and two times diamond in Canada. It topped the Australian, Dutch, and New Zealand charts in it’s day. A quarter century later it found its way atop the Australian, Irish andAmerican album charts again in 2022, and landed in the top 10 in four other countries. It was as, they say, a minor success. I think they issued it to people in the suburbs for a time.

There was a time when someone bought this record, invited their friends over, and put this needle on the vinyl for the first time. Imagine, or remember, hearing the first 100 seconds of this rock opera for the first time.

That’s one of those first-time experience I’d like to have once more. Wikipedia:

Steinman insisted that the song should contain the sound of a motorcycle, and complained to producer Todd Rundgren at the final overdub session about its absence. Rather than use a recording of a real motorcycle, Rundgren himself played the section on guitar, leading straight into the solo without a break. In his autobiography, Meat Loaf relates how everyone in the studio was impressed with his improvisation. Meat Loaf commends Rundgren’s overall performance on the track:

In fifteen minutes he played the lead solo and then played the harmony guitars at the beginning. I guarantee the whole thing didn’t take him more than forty-five minutes, and the song itself is ten minutes long. The most astounding thing I have ever seen in my life.

Next up, a bit of Van Hagar. I bought my first Van Halen record, “OU812,” as a cassette in 1988 or so, when it came out. The first Van Halen CD to appear in the collection is a bit later in their catalog. It, like so much of the Sammy Hagar holds up.

I should have played this filler-track for Halloween.

If you’re looking for classic Van Halen riffs and percussion …

This iteration of the band was doomed to fail just after the supporting tour. In retrospect, I think you can hear it in Alex Van Halen’s drum solo. There’s just something grievous and entropic happening in here.

Now, “Baluchitherium” didn’t make it onto the vinyl format because of time constraints, but it’s full of that classic sound. And, score one for a more modern format.

Real Van Halen fans thought this riff sounded familiar. They were correct.

The record was three-times certified as platinum in the U.S. and Canada, but it was the last of Hagar. The band got tense on the road, because this is the Van Halen story. Three years later there was the one record with Gary Cherone, and then the last studio album, the still-tumultuous David Lee Roth version of the group.

Altogether, Van Halen had 12 studio albums — all but one of those landed in the top 10, and four of them, including “Balance” went to number one. (Balance was the last to hit the top of the charts.) From all of that, and two live albums and two more compilation albums, they released 56 singles. Thirteen of those sat atop the charts in the United States, and another 10 landed in the Top 10. But every time Van Halen comes to mind, for some reason, I think “What if?”

I’m sure that’s just my timing, talking.

Speaking of timing … just you wait until you hear the underwhelming anecdote I have for the next item on the Re-Listening Project.

I shouldn’t say it is very underwhelming … that might set the bar too high. But the story will not impress you at all.