Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama's Secret Record Collection

from Rolling Stone....

When Barack Obama moved into the White House on January 20th, he gained access to five chefs, a private bowling alley — and a killer collection of classic LPs. Stored in the basement of the executive mansion is the official White House Record Library: several hundred LPs that include landmark albums in rock (Led Zeppelin IV, the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed), punk (the Ramones' Rocket to Russia, the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols), cult classics (Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, the Flying Burrito Brothers' The Gilded Palace of Sin) and disco. Not to mention records by Santana, Neil Young, Talking Heads, Isaac Hayes, Elton John, the Cars and Barry Manilow.

During the waning days of the Nixon administration, the RIAA, the record companies' trade group, decided the library should include sound recordings as well as books. In 1973, the organization donated close to 2,000 LPs. The bad news: The selection was dominated by the likes of Pat Boone, the Carpenters and John Denver. In 1979, legendary producer John Hammond convened a new commission to update the list for the hipper Carter administration. "They felt they needed to redress some of the oversights that might have taken place the first time around," says Boston music critic and author Bob Blumenthal, who was put in charge of adding 200 rock records to the library.

At the commission's first meeting, Blumenthal brought up Randy Newman's thorny dissection of Southern culture, Good Old Boys, to determine what restrictions the panel might face. "That was exhibit A," Blumenthal says. "And I was told, 'Oh, the president loves that album! Go ahead!' " So Blumenthal and his advisers — including Paul Nelson, then Rolling Stone's reviews editor — compiled a list to reflect "diversity in what was going on in popular music." They picked the Kinks' Arthur for its "theme of empire," and Blumenthal snuck in favorites like David Bowie's Hunky Dory.

On January 13th, 1981, the LPs — each in a sleeve with a presidential seal — were presented to Jimmy Carter at a White House ceremony. But the collection — placed in a hallway near the third-floor listening room, complete with a sound system — didn't remain upstairs long. When Ronald Reagan took office that year, the LPs were moved to the basement. Depending on the source, the reason was Nancy Reagan's distaste for shelves of vinyl, or the edgy choices themselves. A spokesman for Obama said it was too early to comment on whether the president would revive the library. But Obama may be pleased to learn that at least a few of his favorite albums — Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run — are there if he wants them on pristine slabs of vinyl.

[From Issue 1071 — February 5, 2009]

Thursday, January 22, 2009

2008 Recap, #1 Music Together Now!

By far my favorite musical moments this year came from the Music Together class that we enrolled Alice in. Every Saturday morning we head over to the All Together Now compound in East Montpelier and sing and dance around with other kiddos and parents. It's been such a joy to watch Alice open up, have fun, and sing along, and I expect we'll keep up with the program for some time. Anyone with kiddos ought to check it out.

2008 Recap- #2 Ray Davies

Okay, I'll finish my 2008 list and put it to bed.

#2- Ray Davies, Working Man's Cafe and 12/11/08 at Higher Ground:

Everyone should know I'm a big Kinks fan, from back when I started listening to music. And even though I missed out on the boys from about 1993-2000 (funny how that coincides with my 'wasted youth' years), they are now again in major rotation in my life. Ray put out arguably one of his best records since the early 80's last spring, Working Man's Cafe. Another wistful look back like Village Green a bit, with his solid publican attitude. Ray also wrote some great stuff reflecting on life itself, particularly "Morphine Song" which deals with his recovery after being shot by a mugger in New Orleans maybe five years ago. In general, a really solid record.
So when I see Ray is making a rare Vermont stop on his short winter tour, I was pretty psyched. I hadn't seen Ray since '91 or '92, missing his local/regional stops while I was in my twenties. In spite of the show's promotion and a really shitty snow/ice storm that night, he nearly packed the house. Starting the set as an acoustic duo, he pulled out some killer material, reaching back to the Kinks' Golden Years for tracks like "I Need You", "I'm Not Like Everybody Else", and "See My Friends", among others. As his touring band members trickled out on stage song-by sonhg the intimate duo morphed into a full band and filed the set with selections from the new albums (including tracks off 2005's Other People's Lives) mixed with older classics. "Celluloid Heroes" was performed so well I damn near weeped, and the only bugger I had was that they could have dropped "Apeman" and pulled out "Shangri-La" which has been played at some other shows on the tour. All in all, a great night and one of my top ten shows ever.

Set List

Thursday, January 08, 2009

MissN' Cider

Pretty creative, I gotta say...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ron Asheton, RIP

Stooges massively influential guitarist Ron Asheton found dead.

Sad stuff....

Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 Recap...British Pop

So I've been doing this recap thing, not really a 'top 10 list' since there's more than ten things and I haven't really ordered them. Well now I'll start the numbering....

3) Yeah, three. There's a bunch more stuff before in my more recent posts that could be called 11 or so through 4. But this is where I rank them. I'm lumping two discovery into one post since it's really the vein of music I'm talking about here, rawky british pop. Sort of.

I first heard the Kooks on XM and was pretty caught by their retro-now sound. Didn't know anything about them, but their hooky guitar pop caught me and I had to remind myself to check them out. This was a year ago, maybe two. I guess they sold a shitload of that first record, which I have yet to hear save for that one radio song I can't remember now. So they put out a record this year called Konk. As in Ray Davies/the Kinks studio. That says a lot, and I picked it up. It is what it is, decpetively simple four guys-with-guitars pop. They don't annoy me like the Strokes, who seem to have no soul. Anyway, this is a killer record, with memorable yet disposable hooks. Love it. Get it on vinyl and like me, 'clean' it on your homemade record vacuum before recording it to digital. That way the super glue residue on the vacuum wand will scuff up the last 1/2 inch of grooves and give the recording that old time scratchy sound.

Locksley, Don't Make Me Wait. These guys aren't British, they're kids from Wisconsin now in uber-hip Brooklyn. They opened on Ray Davies short winter tour last month. Their cd is a bitch to find since they're unsigned, but I guess they have some licemsing deal with MTV and maybe some commercials. They're album is totally fucking derivative and killer. They sound like the Small Faces and the Beatles (pre 1966). They're nice kids. They'll make you dance around the room. Preview the record here, then buy it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Music and Culture

I went to First Night Montpelier last night with the family, mainly so Alice could dance. As usual at this event there are a ton of performances throughout the afternoon, many focused on non-Western music, for lack of a better term. Last year Alice surprised us when she broke out into a wicked hoe-down during a Klezmer performance, so we headed to see the same folks again this year to start the afternoon off. While Alice didn't bust out as much as last year, due probably to being a bit tired from her recent nap and a venue change to a fluorescent-lit room and all, I couldn't help but appreciate the scene we were taking in. Here was a group of Vermont-transplanted Jews keeping alive their musical, linguistic, and cultural history with an art form that has been passed down all the way back from the home land, or Eastern Europe anyway, for centuries. Some audience members were totally into it, doing that Jewish line dancing thing and all, and a tiny little cultural center popped up for a moment. Considering that Orange County where I grew up is 1/2 hour and fifty years behind Montpelier, it was good to see this. So that got me thinking what music I should be listening to, performing, or otherwise spreading to keep my seven-generation Central Vermont Yankee culture alive.
I can say that music wasn't huge in my upbringing, at least 'traditional' music. My grandmother would tell stories of 'kitchen junkets' back in her youth, when a designated family up on West Hill (or South or East Hill in Williamstown and Brookfield, respectively) would invite everyone over on a Saturday night, clear out the kitchen, and hoe down to fiddle music. I certainly don't carry this tradition on, and it seems the only ones who do are hippies who co-opted contra dancing and old folks who put on museum shows.
So we left the show to see a guy who blows bubbles and get something to eat, then made our way over to see 35th Parallel. Here's an outfit that throws my earlier thinking on its head, two Americans, one Jewish I presume (not that it matters but it plays into the above reference of maintaining one's culture through their music), that specialize in multiple world music styles: "35th Parallel's name comes from the latitude line intersecting the regions that inspire their music - the Middle East, North India, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the United States." These guys pull bits of culture from all over the world and meld it together into their own art form that respects its influences while creating a new sense of wonder regarding non-Western music, culture, and thought.
So now my hypothesis was getting all screwy, and we went home. After dropping off Alice and Julie I shot up to Hardwick to see my brother's band, Dog House Roses play a rare gig at Claire's. These guys play rock music, well-rooted in the 4/4 Western (not Country-Western) aesthetic. No tablas, bouzoukis, fiddles, or dance callers. I then realized that this music, while it seems 'simpler' than all that other fancy stuff, is a legitimate, traditional form for Americans and even Western Europeans from the latter half of the 20th century and beyond. It certainly evolves, as do all traditional art forms, and it steals from others, but in the end it is as important as Raga, Jazz, Klezmer, or whatever.
Now I can appreciate the The Kinks, or The Stooges, or Built to Spill, or Alejandro Escovedo, or Sun Kil Moon, or whatever and know that it is simply the tradition of music that is being carried on. I don't have to worry that I'm not saving my culture from fading away, because my culture and its art evolves with the times while still keeping its distinct identity (those contra dancers still kick up a mean show). And what is really fascinating and deserves it own analysis someday is how we as a species have always sought melodic/harmonic sounds to integrate into our lives. I guess any music therefore maintains Human Culture in that regard.

Oh what the hell am I babbling about, I've been listening to the Misfits all week.


2008 Recap, Chinese Democracy

I was in Best Buy back in November buying Julie that ubiquitous electronic for wives this year, the Car GPS, when I saw this on the racks. I sort of knew it was coming out but haven't paid much attention, and haven't been tempted to listen to the 'leaks' that have popped up over the years.
The backstory needs little retelling; paranoid whacko Axl holes up for 17 years with gazillions of money to make an album with no consistent band, producer, or even songwriter it seems. When it finally sees the light of day everyone is expected to either laud it unquestionably or pan it automatically. I figure I'll judge it on its own merits.
On first listen I thought, "Holy Shit, this is good!" On second lisetn, too. Amazing, earth-shattering, anything even close to Appetite for Destruction? Hell no. But this sounds like a logical followup to Use Your Illusion. It's basic hard rock with Axl's 'you against me' lyrics and obvious contribution, sound and song-wise, from Robin Fink (Nine Inch Nails) and Buickethead, who plays some pretty solid and even Slash-like solos.
Most amazingly this record isn't overly compressed like so many nowadays, and just plain sounds good. Turn it up, especially on "Better," "Street of Dreams,", and "There was a Time."