In honor of Halloween I give you the one piece of music that has scared the bejesus out of me more than any other. O Fortuna from the cantata Carmina Burana by Carl Orff:
I probably first heard this piece of music on the soundtrack to the 1981 Excalibur movie, although I have since conflated it with every creepy cantata I’ve ever heard.
For instance I was sure that this piece of music was in the Omen movies… and those scared the hell out of me!
I have since learned this piece of music actually is a poem from the 13th or 14th century that was most likely satirical and not at all satanic. Live and learn.
We played my O Fortuna as the clock stuck midnight on Halloween eve for maximum creep effect. My 1960 Columbia Masterworks copy is a recording of The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy. 55 years on it still sounds terror-ific!
I just heard the news that that folk singer and activist Leon Bibb passed away earlier this month.
Bibb, born in 1922, was a contemporary of Paul Robesonand Harry Belafonte and was a highly regarded actor, vocalist and interpreter of folk songs through the fifties and sixties.
One of the performers at the first Newport Folk Festival in 1959, Bibb gained notoriety for his work on Broadway musicals and, later, for and being blacklisted for alleged ties to left-wing groups and being a sympathizer with human rights organizations during the civil rights movement.
He was also the father of blues musician Eric Bibb, a connection I had not previously made.
Leon Bibb passed away on October 23rd of this year.
R.I.P Leon Bibb! I’m remembering you today by listening to your 1967 album The Now Composers:
Your interpretations of Leonard Cohen’sSuzanne,Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin and Lennon and McCartney tunes In My Life and Here There And Everywhere are among my favorites.
I had a nightmare. I dreamt that I was sitting around a campfire with David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young and we were passing around a guitar… each playing our best.
In this nightmare, although I never did actually get to embarrass myself with my meager finger picking skills, I knew that my talent could never hold a candle to these four heros of mine.
It could be that I’ve been spending too much time with the first CSNY album, 1970s Deja Vu:
This is a weird record. In production it’s reminiscent of The BeatlesWhite Album where individual band members came to the studio with fully formed, sometimes meticulously scripted, songs and the other members of the group pitched in where appropriate.
It consists of two songs each from C, S, N and Y with one collaboration between S and Y as well as the single Woodstock ( written by Joni Mitchell).
Deja Vu was a great launch pad for each of these for fellows blasting off into separate solo superstardom in its wake.
As for the quartet, they released a live album from the Deja Vu tour the following year but couldn’t stand each other enough to hold it together and dissolved. The next CSNY release was the greatest hits in the mid seventies (wishfully called So Far, even though CSNY wouldn’t record together again until 1988).
“Weather Report teaches us to unlearn our ideas of musical differences, and only concern ourselves with each musical moment, the essence of the music. We have also been taught that understanding can only come with words and explanation: we must be told. But language can only go to a certain point in human communication and expression; certain ideas, emotions, questions and answers cannot be verbally expressed: music is a means of expressing the inexpressible. Weather Report plays music without words. Much is said: there are stories, conversations, singing, laughing, crying, whispering, understanding but no words.”
So says Robert Hurwitz on the liner notes to the 1972 Weather Report release I Sing The Body Electric:
Well Mr. Hurwitz… I do need a path to follow. I can’t grasp music that seems aimless, that is not transporting me somewhere. Even if it’s someplace I don’t want to go at least I know I’m on a ride! And as for definitions and meaning… for me that is within the listener: you could ask 10 different people what Dark Side of the Moon or Abbey Road means and you would get 10 different answers. Each of those examples has many profound musical moments within and with a comfortable structure. This really allows me to focus on those moments rather than just trying to keep up.
And a word about words… Vocals are so much more than just words! A truly great singer communicates so much more then the definition of the word sung.
I’ve come so far so fast in my appreciation of the jazz idiom, but Weather Report? You keep letting me down!
This is strike two Weather Report! I know that my next session with one of your records contains the bass player Jaco Pastorius and I really like his stuff on Joni Mitchell records, so I’m still holding out hope. Please don’t let me down!
For this, the 300th day (and 300th post) of Mark’s 365 Days Of Vinyl, I thought I would break out the debut album from my favorite high school band:
Rail – Arrival:
In high school there was nothing cooler than being in a band. Myself, being a talentless and stage frightened goof, I never made the attempt. Others did and I respected every one of them. But I was doomed to exist only in the audience.
The absolute coolest band that came through my hometown in those years was Rail. They were four guys from the Seattle area who toured regionally in the late seventies and early eighties. They were a dual lead guitar band and the drummer played a double bass kit, which I had never seen or heard before.
The elfish lead singer and bass player, Terry Young, was a fantastic frontman with an operatic delivery.
This debut album opens with punch to the gut hard rockers that deal with all of the important issues of the day; love, loss, and belonging.
The flip side gets a little heavier and more fantasy-like with songs that elicit far off lands and journeys yet to be undertaken.
Rail played the all ages clubs in my area and other live music venues throughout the region. They had two claims to fame in the era:
One was they were selected as the opening act for a leg of the ongoing Van Halen tour and the second was they won the very first MTV Basement Tapes contest for emerging rock acts.
My cassette copy of Arrival rarely left the tape deck of my High School hot rod. That cassette traveled the world with me only to eventually succumb to overuse.
I have talked about this band to everyone I’ve known since my high school days. I’ve been keeping an eye out on the interwebs for a CD replacement to my old battered cassette. But, until recently, the master tapes of arrival had been lost and a CD would not be forthcoming.
When we moved back to Spokane there was a local festival within the first few weeks of our return. Lo and behold the headliners for one night of live music in the park was the band Rail!
Now my wife could finally see what all the fuss was about.
I think she enjoyed it more because I was into it, but none the less she has now become a fan. She even ventured out and found an original pressing of the Arrival album and gave it to me as a gift one Father’s Day.
Looking back, that was probably the impetus for my renewed connection with vinyl records. Unable to obtain this album on CD I had no choice but to set up with turntable and the rest, as they say, is history.
Here’s the video they made that won them the Basement Tapes title in 1983:
Here’s the result of their grand prize:
And some other live footage and interview material:
Here’s what happens when I take my wife to the record store:
The first three records from hair metal, glam metal, butt rockers Kix… their 1981 self titled debut, 1983s Cool Kids and the album Midnight Dynamite from 1985.
My wife and I use the term butt rock affectionately, and not as a put down at all! Pretty much any band that came after New Wave and before Grunge fills the bill.
This is a particular period of music that we agree on! It is the one type of music that was the music that I was listening to in real time and music that she somehow came to love in her younger years.
Kix comes across as a mixture between 70’s glam band Sweet and Quiet Riot… Guitar heavy with some goofy musical styling and vocals thrown in for good measure.
I saw Kix circa 1991 when they open for the Scorpions in Denver, Colorado. I knew them from frequent MTV airplay at the time… an un-remarkable power ballad of some sort if memory serves. Nothing familiar to me on these three albums, but the cover art did bring back one memory… in their live performance they all wore Converse sneakers which were my footwear of choice back in the day.
And I called them my “kicks” so we had that in common. I guess I was one of the cool kids after all!
So, I found a first pressing mono copy of the Beach Boys – Pet Sounds at a local thrift store:
Now I just have to figure out how to you say “I really don’t care for this album, Rolling Stone’s second greatest album of all time”, in this crappy blog…
What do I know that RS doesn’t? Nothing. It’s just my opinion…
I’ve never been a huge Beach Boysfan, although one of my very first record purchases was a Beach Boys compilation.
Growing up in Idaho, the surf and the beach and the California Girls were just a fairytale. That didn’t mean we couldn’t fantasize about sun-drenched, Laidback afternoons full of late breaking waves and bikini clad surfer girls…
And AM Radio in Idaho didn’t delve into the thematic production of Pet Sounds or the new “Wall Of Sound” that Brian Wilson created…
I’ve owned this album on CD for quite a while. I bought it because it was one of those records you were supposed to like… one of those records that was so awesome and influential it would change your life with one spin.
It’s a good record, it has some good songs on it, don’t get me wrong, but it just didn’t trip my trigger like I was promised it would.
Still, for $0.50 I wasn’t going to pass on this purchase. It gave me a chance to reacquaint myself with the second greatest album of all time.
Still, after all these years, it did not move me or show me the path towards greater enlightenment or whatever it was supposed to do.
My thrift store copy is fairly beat up but playable. I’m sure someone else is looking for any version of this record for their ultimate collection. I’m glad to pass it along.
I can still remember the last re-recorded cassette I bought: the debut LP by the band The Smithereens entitled Especially For You:
They had a minor hit, Blood And Roses, which was in rotation on KZOK, the classic rock radio station in Seattle. I loved that tune and drove to the Tower Records at the South Tacoma Mall specifically for this release.
Vinyl LP in hand, I was seduced by the promotion of a chromium oxide high quality cassette tape of this album for a lower price than the vinyl. CDs were the new thing and vinyl would soon be a thing of the past… I mean, I had a cassette deck in my car as well as in my dorm. If I bought this vinyl LP, I was just going to take it home and recorded on a cassette tape anyway… why not cut out the middleman, right?
It’s been at least 25 years since I have listened to this album… my crappy Sony tape deck in my 69 Ford Bronco ate my fancy chromium oxide high quality overpriced factory made cassette and I was left wishing I had bought the vinyl in the first place! I have regretted that decision for almost 30 years!
So when I found a vinyl copy of Especially For You at a local antique mall I gladly laid down the $3 the vendor was asking.
Other than the badass Blood And Roses… The Smithereens appealed to me because they were Beatlesque while still remaining somewhat harder rock and roll.
That being said, my favorite songs on the record were the odd balls; the acoustic heartbreaker Cigarette was a particular favorite and the pseudo Latin ode to fifties film noir In A Lonely Place also struck a chord.
My first listen in over 25 years took me right back to the dorm rooms of 1986. I hadn’t thought of Especially For You for quite a long time but I am sure glad I ran across a used copy here in Spokane.
R.I.P. Steven Paul “Elliott” Smith who died on this date in 2003 ( depending on which internet source you trust).
Back in the 90s, I was aware of Elliott Smith mainly due to the inclusion of some of his songs in movies and other such vehicles. His style of singing, his introspective lyrics, and his paper-thin vocal delivery are very distinctive.
I have to admit, I had never listened to an Elliott Smith record before today.
The album I broke out today is his eponymous 1995 debut on the Kill Rock Stars label:
Hindsight being 20/20, the album cover art… bodies free falling off of buildings, the dark and despairing subject matter of some songs and the knowledge that he suffered from most of the maladies of the human condition formed an eerie combination for the afternoon.
the album is almost too intimate; like you’re peeking through a dirty window into someone’s living room.
But the last song, entitled The Biggest Lie, got me thinking… was Elliot putting us on all along?