Blog on the Tracks
It's my birthday today. Same time every year. Way back in the first year of this blog I wrote about birthday music and then a couple of years ago I mentioned it again because I share my birthday with Stewart Copeland. But most times the birthday rolls around and I just roll out another blog post, something about The Rolling Stones or favourite heavy metal albums or whatever.
Today I'm planning as much of a day off as I can.
I'm going to dive into reading the expanded edition of Carl Wilson's Let's Talk About Love. A birthday present via a Kindle voucher from my brother. I'd read the first version of the book when it started life as part of the 33 1/3 series. It's the first from that collection - and I've read most of them - to be expanded, to step up and away from the series as a standalone. The book isn't actually about Celine Dion's album, rather it uses Dion and her album Let's Talk About Love as a way of exploring taste, the idea of taste, the thought that hell is other people's music.
And I'll be spending the day with my good buddy Oscar. My two and a half year old son. We'll probably go and see the balloons one more time at the City Gallery. We'll return some CDs to the library and I'm going to get a copy of Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love album to listen to while I read the new version of the book - I have never heard the album. I figure, this time, I should give it a go. Might report back on that another time.
Also my folks are in town. So Osc and I will be showing them around Wellington. I'm pretty lucky to be spending the day with my son and my parents. We'll argue a bit - it's a sort of sport in our family, really. And then we'll have a nice meal. The outlaws are coming down for that too. So a nice family affair. There won't actually be a lot of music today, a bit of The Beatles in the car - Oscar's favourites in the car are Rubber Soul and A Hard Day's Night. But beyond that music will very much take the backseat today.
It's been a bit quiet on the gigging front, usually the case in these cold months. Quite why we expect anyone to leave the comfort of their home - and/or the security of the European/American festival circuit/s during this time of the year - and venture down here to a dearth of venues (Wellington), lazy, reluctant ticket-buyers and people who swan in late, buy too many drinks and talk through shows is, well, quite beyond me really.
And then - some good news.
Kristin Hersh is returning to New Zealand. And soon. Ms Hersh will be playing Auckland and Wellington shows at the end of August. In between those dates she's appearing at Christchurch's Writers Festival, Word Christchurch as part of an author event.
This'll be my fourth time seeing Hersh perform - the second time I've seen her as a solo act (And I've seen her twice, leading Throwing Muses). That first Throwing Muses concert - they were touring their album, University and cannily played the university Orientation circuit - was a revelation. Sam Hunt had been performing earlier in the week. He finished his show by recommending people see Throwing Muses, he reckoned they "had the best lyrics". That was a good tip. I chatted with Hunt after his show. I was an eager first year student, these were my first (and almost last) days on campus. Certainly I never made it up the hill for more days in a row than I did during that first Orientation.
Copies of the Muses albums were devoured that week and then the show. I was in the front row, so close that when we scrounged for picks and setlists and whatever we could have as a keepsake we were handed Hersh's leftover drinks.
There were loads of tributes regarding the passing of Tommy Ramone, the last of the original members of the Ramones. It even made the TV3 news last night. They chose to pay tribute by showing clips of the band with Marky Ramone playing drums rather than any early footage with Tommy. But, oh well, they tried...
The passing of the last member of the band - the final nail as it were - had writers out and remembering the impact of the band. Fair enough. And it was sad news I guess - but at least now there can be a Ramones reunion. In a sense.
The sad news of the weekend, for me, was hearing about the death of Charlie Haden. Sad for many reasons - I'd only recently reviewed his latest album, a duo project with Keith Jarrett.
Haden is a jazz legend. But even with credits that show him working with just about everyone - Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Jarrett, Art Pepper, Michael Brecker, Carla Bley, Geri Allen, Ginger Baker and Pat Metheny (and that's just beginning to scratch the surface) - he had my continued interest because it never seemed his best work was behind him.
It was Ginger Baker's Going Back Home album that turned me onto the world of his music. By then I'd already heard him on the legendary Free Jazz album (one of my favourite jazz albums, one of the very important ones in my life) but hearing Going Back Home as a new album at the time of its release gave me reason to check out more of Haden's work. It was the news - then - that he was still alive and making interesting music, contributing to the work of legends.
Haden worked on pop albums too - he played with Beck and Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and he kept working with jazz, inching ideas forward on modern albums by legends of the genre (Alice Coltrane, Abbey Lincoln, Metheny). There were well over a dozen albums by Haden as a leader too.
This week I kept getting sent the clip of Yoko Ono at Glastonbury - the internet declared it the worst live performance ever. A pang of disappointment there, I was sure the various Fat Freddy's Drop, Six60, Foo Fighters, White Stripes and Lana Del Rey fans with a friend that can read to them had already decided I had that sewn up; me and my pots and pans.
Actually the real pang of disappointment was in so many sites sharing the story - so many thoughtless goons adding their casual racism, throwing out non-sequiturs, getting the name of her band wrong, forgetting - or never knowing - what Yoko Ono did/does in the first place. And announcing, on behalf of John Lennon, that he would have been upset at the effort, or apparent lack of any effort.
I'm not here to tell you that the Yoko clip is the world's best live performance. But hearing from people who have, most likely, a) never heard any of her albums and are b) still blaming her (although now you'd have to say it's more a case of flaming her) for the breakup of The Beatles because their father, in his casually racist way, has been blaming Yoko for the breakup of The Beatles ever since he listened to the loudest of his beer-swilling friends who had read half of an unauthorised Beatles bio that one time he had a particularly stubborn dump, doesn't offer anything, any worthy comment on this clip.
Yoko Ono released a wonderful record last year, another in a career of constantly interesting material. And yet people who have never listened to it are allowed to write it off as noise and mess because they've spent no time listening but prefer a really deep artist like Ben Harper?
Of course it's fine to not like Yoko Ono but some understanding is required surely. Third-rate hack bloggers (hey, we smell our own) couldn't even spot that she was playing with Yo La Tengo - most of the sites pushing this clip for clicks simply called it Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band, one site even referenced the fact that Yo La Tengo had tweeted about the clip but didn't seem to make the connection that there was a vested interest. They simply saw the Yo La Tengo tweet as support from a "legendary indie band", never bothering to connect the dots. Actually they probably saw the inclusion of a Yo La Tengo tweet as further proof that their site has some cool indie cred; doesn't work when you can't spot the tweeters in real life though, surely.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned ten important blues albums - meaning ten albums I considered stepping stones, ten albums that sent me into the genre and then, in some cases, helped define that genre. And as with previous times - when I've offered up my lists around ten important albums in punk, reggae, country, electronica, metal and hip-hop I copped a wee bit of flak because my list wasn't your list. And because my list of blues albums included - gasp! - white people!
And because if this blog is anything it's a study in not being deterred by idiocy, since - hey - my own has clearly never stopped me, then with that, here we go again - this time ten important jazz albums. And if you can't think of your own list you could always just tell me that mine sucks.
1. The Buddy Rich Big Band, Big Swing Face: I mentioned it recently on my list of ten 'drum' albums. This was played to me when I decided I wanted to play the drums. It scared me, baffled me, excited me - and though there are plenty of times when I haven't really enjoyed the relentless approach of Buddy Rich as big-band driver, I would say as often as not actually, this was still among the very first jazz albums I heard; it would have been the first time I sat and listened to a jazz album all the way through, side to side. I've kept this record. I still play it. I was ten years old when I first heard it.
2. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue: When the family got its first CD player we had won some competition so scored a bunch of free CDs with it, including Miles Davis' Tutu. That was cool. The whole family was into it - we only had about five CDs to choose from (others included Santana, Prince and The Animals). The collection grew pretty quickly from there and as that was the introduction to Miles Davis for all of us we decided to get something older, one of his "classic" albums. You can't get more classic than this. I've collected up over a hundred Miles Davis recordings and all because of this. Miles - and this album to start with - became a way to learn about other great players. Every musician on Kind of Blue is represented in my collection across a bunch of other albums, some with them as the leader, sometimes, as with here, they're simply part of a magical line-up.
3. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme: My brother used to return home from university with albums he'd picked up on sale, with new artists he'd been tipped off about. He, being older, introduced me to The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Hello Sailor, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Th' Dudes, The Who and many other great artists. Long-term, long-time favourites. He also brought home this album - one of my all-time favourite records by anyone ever; a life-changing experience. I took the dive headlong into Coltrane's music from hearing this album.
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