Ric Ocasek, producer and solo artist

New music: Cold Diamond & Mink, GoGo Penguin, Bill Frisell, Pixies

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New Directions In Music

Ric Ocasek as producer and solo artist

Ric Ocasek, lead singer of The Cars passed away on Sunday at the age of 75. Pretty much no one who was a teenager when their debut album came out in 1978 could resist the band's ultra-cool style and the way they were able to mix a Euro-electronic sound with pure American pop. The dichotomy was represented visually and sonically by the band’s two vocalists--Benjamin Orr, a dreamy blonde who crooned the band's most soothing hit, "Drive" and Ric Ocasek, the impossibly lanky, dark-haired weirdo in sunglasses who gave a mod Roy Orbison twist to songs like "My Best Friend's Girl."

The band's six original albums--The Cars, Candy-O, Panorama, Shake It Up, Heartbeat City, and Door to Door--contained a ton of hit songs that were played frequently on MTV as well as a shadow group of songs that were popular with FM radio listeners ("Bye Bye Love," "Moving In Stereo," "Heartbeat City"). 

Ocasek also had an amazing career as a producer, often working with younger, up and coming bands like Weezer, who he helped make the transition from the garage to a professional recording studio. He also worked extensively with electronic trance-pop duo Suicide, a band that was not only electronic but also outside the mainstream.

If you think you know all about Ocasek's production work, I suggest you take a look at this wonderful piece by Annie Zaleski. She does a great job of not only rounding up Ric's many production credits through the years but also providing a window into his relationships with these bands and his strong work ethic and sense of professionalism. Seriously, I had thought about writing something about Ocasek's work as a producer but Zaleski did it and there's no sense reinventing the wheel.

Ocasek also had a complete and generally ignored solo career that will no doubt invite some reevaluation. Beginning with Beatitudes, released during the hiatus between the Cars albums Shake It Up and Heartbeat City, Ocasek's solo work functioned both as an outlet for music that didn't fit the Cars sound as well as a laboratory for exploring the studio and experimenting. 1986's This Side of Paradise is the most Cars-like of his solo albums and features nearly all the members of the band on various tracks. By 1990's Fireball Zone he was shedding many of the Cars mannerisms, but it's probably the least interesting of his solo discs.

Quick Change World, released in 1993, highlights Ocasek's two sides: the power-pop genius and the electro avant-garde experimentalist. Originally meant to be a double album called Negative Theater, it was changed by his record company, who took seven tracks from Negative Theater and paired them with seven tracks recorded with Mike Shipley. Negative Theater was released in Europe with a different track listing. The contrast between the first seven songs, which could have come from a later Cars album ("Hard Times" was originally written for the Heartbeat City album) and the second seven, which are synth-heavy and full of nervous energy, makes this a high point in Ocasek’s solo career.

The 1997 release Troubalizing was produced by Billy Corgan, and it features some heavier guitar sounds than Ocasek had used in a while. The songs are recognizably Ric Ocasek joints, though, and he was energized enough by the experience to go out on tour for the album, his first live performances since the Cars. 

He released his last album, Nexterday, in 2005. The album was self-produced, much of it recorded in Ocasek's home studio, and it benefits from a clean, stripped-down style. Ocasek worked with Cars member Greg Hawkes, Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jenifer, and also overdubbed many instrumental parts himself. For those who are feeling the shock of Ocasek's sudden death hitting harder than expected, Nexterday is a good listen that helps absorb the blow. To those unfamiliar with his solo work, there is a lot of good music from an old friend to be heard here. 


Cold Diamond and Mink: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Do you know what’s cool? When your band backs a great performer who brings back the heart of 1960s vinyl soul in a fresh way and then your arrangements and backing are so inspirational that you release the backing tracks as an instrumental album in their own right?

That’s the situation you’ll find with Timmion Records; artist Carlton Jumel Smith and Timmion house band/production team Cold Diamond and Mink. Smith’s album 1634 Lexington Avenue is a loving evocation of mid-1970s soul and R&B recorded on such classic labels as Stax, Curtom, and Hi Records.

Cold Diamond and Mink are definitely up to the task at hand, crafting a warm and authentic retro sound for the songs that Smith has written with a loving hand. While Smith can be an explosive singer and performer, he was encouraged by the folks at Timmion to explore his softer soul side.

1634 Lexington Avenue is the New York City Address of Smith when he was a child absorbing there music of artists like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Barry White, and the incomparable James Brown, who Smith portrayed in the 1999 film Liberty Heights. Located in the city's Spanish Harlem, Smith also grew up hearing the Latin music of performers like Tito Puente ad Celia Cruz.

Cold Diamond and Mink’s production includes a 3-piece horn section (Jukka Eskola, Jimi Tenor, Pope Puolitaival), Sami Kantelinen on Bass, Jukka Sarapää on Drums and guitarist Seppo Salmi, who provides a masterclass in rhythm guitar. Timmion has issued the band's instrumental version on the B side ot every 45rpm single they've released, a smart move guaranteed to help garner play among DJs and amateur playlist programmers alike. 

The band's release is Here Today Gone Tomorrow (1634 Lexington Avenue Instrumentals) and it's a welcome classic sounding slice of vinyl to have on your shelf next to Smith's vocal version.

Of course we made a playlist that contains each song with the vocal and instrumental version back to back. You’re welcome.


GoGo Penguin: “Time-Lapse City”

GoGo Penguin has released a single, "Time-Lapse City", the opening track from the trio's forthcoming EP Ocean in a Drop: Music for Film. The five-song EP features music inspired by the band's live soundtrack for the 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi which they will perform in a final run of dates through autumn in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berlin, Paris, London and their home town of Manchester.

The film's original soundtrack was composed by Phillip Glass, and GoGo Penguin hasn't tried to supplant that legacy.  “People kept asking if we’d release the music as an album, but that didn’t feel right to us,” pianist Chris Illingworth explains. “The film has a great score already, but we really enjoyed the project and specifically writing music for film, so that provided the inspiration for Ocean in a Drop...We recorded the tracks together live like we have with our previous recordings, not overdubbing and layering individual parts together.”

Ocean in a Drop drops October 4, 2019. Blue Note


Bill Frisell: “Everywhere”

Also set to drop on October 4 is Bill Frisell's first Blue Note recording as a leader. Titled Harmony, the album features new Frisell compositions as well as some  standards--"On the Street Where You Live," "Lush Life" and Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

Joining Frisell are familiar collaborators Lee Townsend (producer), Petra Haden (voice), and Hank Roberts (cello, voice) and relative newcomer Luke Bergman (guitar, baritone guitar, bass, voice). Harmony will be available in CD, vinyl and digital formats. 

The album is the result of a commission by the FreshGrass Music Festival, an organization dedicated to the vitality of bluegrass and other American roots music.

The first track released, "Everywhere" is a dreamlike piece that stakes out a territory somewhere between a small jazz combo, a chamber group, and a rootsy folk ensemble. 


Pixies: Beneath the Eyrie

Pixies' 3rd post-reunion album, Beneath the Eyrie, is out and is inevitably a disappointment to pretty much everyone who has reviewed it. This right here is the reason The Beatles never reunited. I'll just link to reviews from The Ringer and The Guardian here. You get the idea…when your band is legendary, there’s no way to live up to that legend in the long run. Even when you are the legend.

I'm also including the video to probably the album's best song "On Graveyard Hill" which is both visually appealing and has some good energy (and a good bass line, which is hard to come by since the departure of Kim Deal). 


New releases playlist

Oh, yeah. NDIM now has a rotating playlist of new releases on Spotify. This is stuff you’ll see us mention in the newsletter or on the website or on Facebook. It’s another way for us to keep you informed of what’s going on out there that you might be interested in.

Take a look at the archive of NDIM newsletters. Feel free to send this link to anyone who loves music or who you think might be interested in reading it.

Thanks, and have a great week.

Iggy Pop's Free Is a Keeper

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You're Iggy Pop and you've just released an album that captures the imagination of fans and critics alike, forging a new direction that takes you away from the dead end you were supposedly stuck in, and the future looks pretty bright. What do you do now?


Correct answer: you take some time to evaluate the situation and embark on writing and recording a record that does absolutely nothing to capitalize on this momentum. Instead you meander off in a new direction that may or may not prove to be successful or popular.

You've done this many times in the course of your career. When you arrive at the doorstep of your solo career following the self-destruction of your seminal band The Stooges, you go to Berlin with David Bowie who helps you to record two of the strongest albums you will ever release. So of course you next sign on to Arista Records and proceed to record a strong album that puts you into the mainstream of what's happening right now: punk rock. You follow that up with a less focused but still substantial album, and then you veer into the ditch and record am album that alienates your newfound following by trying too hard for a hit record.

Next you head to Haiti with your girlfriend and then record a really left field record on your friend's label, a record that no one likes and that goes out of print for some time (though of course it is later reissued as a 'forgotten classic'). It takes you four years to more resurface, again under Bowie's direction, with a definitive '80s album that garners you a hit single and more attention than you've had in years. 

Now you decide to go back to your heavy rock roots and you hire a garage band and write garage music. Just like the Stooges all over again. Except not. You decide to usher in the '90s with an album that runs the gamut of what you do, trying to display all (or at least many) of your various moods. It doesn't do badly at all (another hit single), but you decide to spend the rest of the decade retreading the same garage territory that made your bones in the first place. But it's drudgey, and people are talking about how you're stuck in a rut.

You continue to do this into the 2000’s except for a brief interlude as a poet (1999's Avenue B). You disappear from view for awhile before resurfacing with an album of strong songs, thoughtfully arranged. Again there is some praise from those who had long ago written you off. You follow that up with an album of the crooning thing. And then, four years later you resurface with a new collaborator (Josh Homme) and produce a record of stunning new material that takes you into a different sonic universe than you've been inhabiting. The album is wildly successful and so is the ensuing tour, which is preserved on record.

It's a couple years later. What do you do now? Well, you hire new musical collaborators and head in a completely different direction, of course. So now we have the new Iggy Pop album, Free, pretty much unannounced, and it is definitely different from Post Pop Depression, but in a good way. Which is to say, this time Iggy makes a move opposite to what you'd expect from most artists, and it works wonderfully for him. 

One thing that lends a completely new sound to the album is the presence of avant garde guitarist Noveller (AKA Karen Lipstate). Lipstate is a filmmaker who turned her effects-laden guitar work into a successful side project and has since toured with St. Vincent, Mary Timony, Wire, and now Iggy Pop. Her gorgeous, ambient, layered guitar work is sometimes reminiscent of Robert Fripp's 'Frippertronics' as well as the work of collaborator Brian Eno, and she freely discusses them as influences. Her most recent solo album, 2017's A Pink Sunset For No One plays strongly with their influence, but its there on earlier album as well. Yet Lipstate also sounds like the love child of music as diverse as Sonic Youth and Steve Tibbetts.

On Free she creates soundscapes that emerge and recede behind Iggy's vocals and poetry and there's a sense of both uncertainty and the relief of arriving home. On the more rock-oriented tracks she doesn't try to provide a base for the song, allowing that to fall to the drums, instead she's interacting and commenting on the vocals in a way that is as supportive of Iggy as any musician he's worked with. 

Iggy's other newfound collaborator is Leron Thomas, a trumpet player, composer, arranger, and producer who plays everything from straight ahead jazz to hip hop. His work on Free is mostly open and subdued, providing an introspective, meditative aspect as he rides high on Lipstate's clouds of sound, though he waxes suitably bluesy and more frenetic on the '60s swinger "James Bond."

Free is described by some reviewers as uneven, but honestly it seems like one of his most consistent efforts in a long time, and one I can envision listening to repeatedly for the foreseeable future. If there's a skippable track it's "Dirty Sanchez" which many have derided as juvenile and unbecoming of the sophisticated atmosphere Iggy seems to be pursuing on Free. Which I'll agree to, but it's not horrible and this is Iggy, after all. 

But "Loves Missing" and "Sonali" are absolutely stunning tracks that follow the introductory soundscape "Free." The former isn't dissimilar to some of the songs on Pure Pop Depression, and "Sonali" is an easygoing, jazzy track that finds Iggy intoning lyrics that combine worldly wisdom with platitudes ('Stay in your lane'). In short, these are really good Iggy Pop songs. 

The second side (and yes, Free is available on vinyl) is comprised of tracks that are more poetic, with Iggy reading or declaiming lyrics in much the way he did on Avenue B. But one never gets the impression that Iggy is being lazy (as on Zombie Birdhouse) or not committed to this work. Although there is voice on these tracks, the overall effect is reminiscent of David Bowie's instrumental Side Two of Low and Heroes. It makes you think "is this an Iggy Pop album I'm listening to?"  

Iggy himself has described Free as 'an album where other artists speak for me,' and perhaps that's true, as he performs poetry written by other people. First is "We Are the People," by Lou Reed, a poem Iggy saw in a collection of Reed's poetry which was written in 1970 but fits with today's situation as though written yesterday. That's followed up by Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" with its invective against acceptance of the inevitable. 

He concludes with his own "Dawn," a kind of looking back that seems inevitable in the wake of the deaths of The Stooges' Ron and Scott Ashton and his close friend and mentor David Bowie. "At my stage of the game, you don't void out memories" he says, and who are any of us to disagree? 

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The Art of the Album Cover

How the best artists helped bands create their brand

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The death this past week of Pedro Bell, the artist behind the iconic album covers of Funkadelic, made me think a lot about vinyl album covers. When I was starting New Directions in Music, I decided that I wanted to do a regular feature on people whose artwork appeared on various album covers.

We all know about some of the more iconic album covers in history and the artists who created them, but there are many more images and covers that catch our eyes or are by favorite artists where we really don't know about the artist or creator at all. Nearly everyone recognizes the image on the cover of In the Court of the Crimson King--even if they are unfamiliar with the music itself--but few will know that the image was painted by Barry Godber, a friend of Crimson lyricist Peter Sinfield, and that it is the only album cover he ever designed.

Similarly, the general public knew little about Pedro Bell or his work, and even a lot of music listeners didn't realize the extent to which he helped shape Funkadelic's overall presentation and mythology.

Whether the creator is a graphic artist like Bell or Godber or Mati Klarwein (who created the images used on Bitches Brew and Abraxas) or a photographer like Eliot Landy or Pete Turner, their work is recognized nowadays as part of the artist's branding, and it is given more respect as both commercial and fine art.

Record labels initially used branding to make their records stand out or to make an aesthetic statement. That makes sense because a record label is a company, and branding is an essential component of a successful company. The label designs and logos that they used defined the company as much as their tag lines and print ads. The classic Capitol label with its image of the U.S. capitol dome flanked by four stars as well as their signature yellow and orange swirl 45 rpm label, the Columbia 'eyeball' seen in various configurations through the years, the A&M trumpet logo on a gold label--these were as common and iconic to Americans in the 1950s and '60s as the logos of Zenith or IBM. 

Some independent label owners began to see the value of extending their branding to the album jackets themselves. This was especially true in the jazz field. Creed Taylor developed a presence for Impulse! that included an orange spine, cover fonts and the work of a certain group of photographers, all designed to make his label's records stand out both in record shops and on the record buyer's shelf. Taylor was partially inspired by existing jazz labels such as Blue Note, who used the photography of Francis Wolf to solidify a brand and give the listener a definite feeling about the kind of music that was likely to be found inside.

Taylor did this again when he started CTI Records, but here the idea took another step forward with regard to the album cover. Most CTI releases featured the photography of Pete Turner in a glossy reproduction that took up the entire cover. Turner's photographs weren't images of the musicians or abstract work meant to give a jazz feel to the cover. This was art photography that was given a full showing on the cover. Turner's subject matter was often wildlife found in exotic climes such as Africa or South America. 

It's interesting to note that it was Turner who noted that Taylor was responsible for creating jazz albums that stood out visually, as he recollected in this interview on Marc Myers' award-winning jazz blog JazzWax:

"On the weekends, when I was in the army, I used to go into Manhattan. I’d take photographs for my portfolio and then go to record stores and look through the bins. I thought record covers were pretty interesting. Each time I’d run through the albums I’d see head shot after head shot on the covers. But every so often, an album cover would stand out. When I’d turn the album over to see what was going on, the album had Creed Taylor’s name on the back..."

Manfred Eicher used the same approach when he started his ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) label in Munich in 1969. Eicher also made striking imagery--sometimes photographs like Turner's, other times modern art or abstract shadows and light--the main feature of his album jackets. 

These labels made each of their releases something like an issue of a magazine. The contents were different, but the packaging was familiar, a known entity that gave the record buying public a framework for what to expect when they put the record on. Even the name of Eicher's offering--Edition of Contemporary Music--suggests the magazine model.

When Peter Gabriel began releasing solo albums after leaving Genesis, he used the idea of a magazine outright. Each image (retouched and with effects added) of Gabriel is accompanied by nothing more than his name. The first three albums are all named Peter Gabriel, but each is a different issue from his brand. Eventually the albums became known by descriptions of the images--Car, Scratch, Melt--rather than an official titles. 

Not coincidentally, the Gabriel covers were all done by Hipgnosis, the British design firm founded by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell. They began their run in 1973 with the cover for Pink Floyd's Saucer Full of Secrets, and continued to design covers for Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Scorpions, ELO, Al Stewart, The Police, and many more. It's incredible now to think that there was a design house that focused pretty much exclusively on album covers, but Hipgnosis was a success largely because Thorgerson and Powell understood that the album cover art was an exercise in branding, and that branding now extended to each and every release by a major musical act.

Hipgnosis dissolved in 1983, the same year that Compact Disc players and CD media were introduced in Europe and North America, symbolic because the coaster-sized CD case is commonly seen as the end of the era of creative and innovative album cover design. But cratediggers still enjoy finding album covers that are often more interesting to them than the music within, and holding a copy of a CTI album or Dark Side of the Moon or One Nation Under a Groove feels like holding a Van Gogh or a Picasso--it's a direct physical link to the person who created it and it helps to transport the listener--along with the music--to another point of view and often another universe entirely.

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Woodstock 50: Kerouac v hippies

What Kerouac couldn't grasp about the generation he inspired

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Inspired by insomnia and the myriad stories about the fiftieth anniversary of the Woodstock Festival I watched a marathon of 'Music of' various decades recently on CNN. I came into the cycle at the start of the 1970s, then saw episodes on the '90s and '2000s (not sure what happened to the '80s, but don't care). Then they repeated the 1960s episode I'd missed and then there was a second hour on the 1960s that covered more than just the decade's music.

Near the end of this last piece was Jack Kerouac's 1969 appearance on William F Buckley's show. This conversation, taped only a few months before Kerouac's death, finds him repudiating any credit for creating the hippie movement and demonstrates that the writer was not sympathetic to the tenets of the burgeoning counterculture movement. 

Kerouac didn't consider himself a counterculture figure nor a hero to be emulated. He considered himself a writer first and foremost. He generally considered the beatniks to be somewhat of a nuisance, but generally tolerable. But he never wanted to be a hero. He didn't believe that his books, even the classic On the Road, were tales to be emulated, but rather as documents pulled from the fire of a life that was often less than exemplary. 

He was a law and order guy, an all-American raised in the era when guys drank and played football (he received a football scholarship to Columbia, later dropping out), and he was supportive of the Vietnam War. In many ways he was a member of Nixon's 'silent majority'. He identified heavily as a Catholic despite the Beats' experimentation with Buddhism. A working class guy who happened to be a writer. 

Jack Kerouac never intended, and was ill-prepared to be, any kind of influence or example, and when he was confronted with it he felt compelled to mock it, as in this passage from Big Sur:

"I’m supposed to be the King of the Beatniks according to the newspapers, so but at the same time I’m sick and tired of all the endless enthusiasms of new young kids trying to know me and pour out all their lives into me so that I’ll jump up and down and say yes yes that’s right..."

It seems probable that the thing that Kerouac couldn't stand about the hippies, what distinguished them from the beatniks, was their politicization. He came from a working class background, a shot and a beer, and in the Buckley clip he is exactly like the drunk uncle or the drunk war veteran at the end of the bar who blames everything on lawless rebellion, on the way long hair and blue jeans show a lack of respect and how these kids have no sense of patriotism and won't stand up to the communists. 

And the humor. Humor is not a major element in Kerouac's books, and if he disagreed with you strongly enough he seems more like the kind of guy who would throw a punch than a joke. In the various Woodstock pieces that have aired recently I noted a few times the comment from Wavy Gravy (Hugh Romney--he didn't become known as Wavy Gravy until a few weeks after Woodstock) that the security force he headed was a "Please Force" rather than a police force, and that they intended to keep the peace with "cream pies and seltzer bottles."

A lot of hippie political protest was done as street theater or as a put on, a joke. That didn't make it any less effective: when Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies announced plans to levitate the Pentagon or to spike the water supply with LSD, the response was not laughter. But the joke was still on the establishment. 

The young people who formed the core of the hippie rebellion that Kerouac so hated were mostly intelligent, literate, educated and altruistic. Unlike the beatniks who formed a counterculture that was ultimately selfish and incapable of radical political action, the hippie movement looked inward in order to better understand themselves and better engage with others, with the ultimate goal of moving society forward. The Woodstock Festival is the shining example of that goal made real because of the combined efforts of an incredible number of people who all wanted it to succeed, not for financial reasons, but because of what it demonstrated to the rest of the country. It's impossible to imagine a beatnik Woodstock.

Max Yasgur, who rented his dairy farm as the site of the Woodstock Festival, was a Republican and a conservative who supported the Vietnam War. He was not happy about the way that some of the young people of the '60s were protesting or the things they were saying about his country. But he was a staunch believer in freedom of speech and a rugged Yankee individualist, and he allowed the festival on his farm much to the chagrin of his friends and neighbors--afterward he was never welcome at the general store. On the final day of the festival he addressed the crowd, telling them:

"I think you people have proven something to the world--not only to the Town of Bethel, or Sullivan County, or New York State; you've proven something to the world. This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. We have had no idea that there would be this size group, and because of that, you've had quite a few inconveniences as far as water, food, and so forth. Your producers have done a mammoth job to see that you're taken care of... they'd enjoy a vote of thanks. But above that, the important thing that you've proven to the world is that a half a million kids--and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you--a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and I God bless you for it!"

The next wave of counter-cultural literature came from Ken Kesey, a native of Colorado who migrated to California and then Oregon. Kesey was 13 years younger than Kerouac and he went to college on a wrestling scholarship and then on to Stanford's graduate writing program. Like Kerouac, Kesey was a large physical presence who liked to brawl, but Kesey was interested in psychedelic drugs. He volunteered for an Army experiment in which subjects were given mind-altering drugs. He also worked in a hospital psychiatric ward, inspiring his first novel, the brief anti-establishment tale One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

After another novel and a lot more LSD, Kesey took a bus trip across America with his retinue, known as the Merry Pranksters. And who should show up as the driver of Kesey's bus, "Further"? None other than Neal Cassady, the ex-Beat muse and living embodiment of Kerouac's mad angel energy. And Cassady has no problem whatever shedding the crazed holy fool of the night role for the wasted holy fool behind the wheel role. 

Kesey was inspired, like everyone else of the time, by On the Road, but Kesey didn’t emulate Kerouac’s lifestyle, his trip was to be free in his own peculiar way. Kesey wanted a big party with a group that was a moving community that could take care of itself and each other, and that was really the antithesis of the loner ethos of the Beats. It was the blueprint for Woodstock. 

Neal and Jack and Me. We're together, but we're really alone. 

Neal made the swap for the warm embrace of the community, that feeling that maybe the next guy you met wouldn't rob you or steal your stuff or turn you in. Maybe that next person you met would help feed you, provide you with a role in a community where you had value and maybe could come to value yourself. Maybe that next person would lend you their land on which to manifest your dreams, the tribal dreams of a lot of people who weren't really all 'hippies' at all, but who caught the moment and went surfing on it, going ever further. 

Kesey embraced his followers. He was happy to gather his tribe around him. He wanted to share his talents. He taught writing. He and his wife raised a family in Oregon and were part of a more traditional community. And Kesey understood the use of humor: “Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.”

Poor Jack Kerouac, he couldn't make that shift, to just living, and it killed him. He was bitter and he wasted the good will his writing had created on remaining aloof and aloft from the Beats and on being outright contemptuous of the hippie generation. Cassady gave Kerouac the narrative voice of On the Road, a voice that Kerouac himself did not possess but which he could put into words, which Cassady could not do. He was able to provide Kesey and his Pranksters a safe and swift journey across the miles, miles that he'd driven many times before, and they were thankful. In return they valued Neal for who he was, warts and all.

Woodstock was one of those events that reinforced America’s sense of community. For a brief time it looked like maybe Nixon was wrong. Maybe the real silent majority were the people who wanted to see their neighbor in the best possible light. The reason anyone cares fifty years later isn’t just because of the music, though that was amazing in itself. It is because for a shining moment it looked like maybe all you really did need was love.

Bonus Tracks

Grateful Dead: ‘Cassidy” The song was inspired by the daughter of a Dead crew member, Cassidy Law, but the lyrics also allude to Neal Cassady. John Perry Barlow, who wrote the song’s lyrics talks about the song, Neal Cassady, the Grateful Dead, and Ken Kesey in this wonderful post at Literary Kicks.

Here’s the younger Kerouac reading from On the Road on the Steve Allen show along with a brief interview about the book. Steve plays some cocktail jazzbo piano behind him. You can only imagine that Jack got sick of this kind of thing pretty quickly.

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New Coltrane, Old Roxy Music

In Every Dream Home Edition

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New material from a jazz artist of John Coltrane's stature is a big deal coming fifty-one years following his horribly premature death at age 40. Last year's Both Directions at Once chronicled the saxophonist and his famous and most longstanding quartet working their way from the harmonic virtuosity of Giant Steps towards the modal droning of Crescent and A Love Supreme. It was a release that did not disappoint, offering rare glimpses into Coltrane's development as a player that went far beyond some alternate takes or warmed over session leftovers. 

Now Impulse! records will release Blue World, a recording of the quartet performing new versions of previously recorded tracks that were done for a French Canadian new wave film. The film's director, Gilles Groulx, enjoyed jazz and was particularly a fan of Coltrane's music. He asked the saxophonist to provide the film's soundtrack, and the quartet recorded Blue World's 37 minute session between Crescent and A Love Supreme. The tracks are all versions of previously recorded work due to contractual issues, but they are full-throated performances of songs one might have heard the group play live at the time. 

The album will include two takes of Coltrane's classic ballad "Naima," three versions of "Village Blues" and one each of "Traneing In," "Like Sonny," and "Blue World." 

Though Blue World is touted as a 'lost album' of Coltrane's, it wasn't so much lost as hiding in plain sight. The movie that Groulx made, Le Chat dans le Sac (The cat in the bag), is readily available for viewing, but in the end Groulx only used around 10 minutes of Coltrane's music. The sessions weren't noted in the studio log and so the existence of these tracks was glossed over.

It was unusual for Coltrane to revisit already-recorded tracks in the studio. In his liner notes, Coltrane authority Ashley Kahn writes that the work on Blue World offers listeners " the chance to compare these versions with previous perspectives, revealing both Coltrane's personal progress and the interactive consistency and sonic details the Classic Quartet had firmly established as their collective signature by 1964."

What makes Blue World feel like a real Coltrane release as opposed to something cobbled together by a record label or producer looking to 'create' a release is the fact that the material was all recorded at the same time and hasn't been submitted to heavy duty editing or other manipulation. 

Since the 1980s jazz music has been a genre whose value rests largely on reissues and new discoveries of music by acknowledged giants of the pantheon. As in rock music, the work that is discovered is of varying value and differs in whether it was or wasn't intended to be released. 

Coltrane's catalog has been well served by Impulse! and other labels, by his estate, and by writers like Kahn. Because there is so much of recorded work available by Coltrane, the biggest question that listeners will ask isn't whether this is a worthwhile listening experience (it is), but whether they are interested in hearing it. 

Blue World offers a charming footnote to the work heard on Both Directions at Once and gives fans another opportunity to experience this amazingly fertile period of creativity in the brief life of one of music's most revered artists.

Coltrane at NDIM


Roxy Music is Still Blowing Our Minds

Guicci Memoire d'une Odeur, available at Macys, is running a fifteen second spot featuring the Roxy Music song "In Every Dream Home a Heartache" from the band's second album For Your Pleasure. The spot features Harry Styles and Cheikh Tall romping in what appears to be a variety of European locations. Of course the song is famously a love song to a blow-up sex doll, but the campaign's accompanying copy "Harry Styles and his free-spirited family let go of all inhibitions as they dance, sing and enjoy each others company. Gucci's universal fragrance Mémoire d'une Odeur is said to embody this lifestyle and was made for those who go against the status quo" confirms that the song's decadent tone is what they were seeking. Ferry's voice is heard at the spot's opening, 'You blow my mind" followed by 10 or so seconds of Phil Manzenara's heavy, psychedelic guitar solo. 

The spot was produced by Alessandro Michele, who also did Gucci's 'Forever Guilty' spot featuring Jared Leto and Lana Del Rey in a 1960s glamour dream accompanied by Link Wray's "The Swag."

Roxy Music, in its original incarnation, was heavily influenced by Richard Hamilton, father of pop art. Hamilton was Bryan Ferry's professor for a year in 1964 at Newcastle University. Ferry studied fine art at Newcastle and fell heavily under Hamilton's spell, so much so that the artist used to joke that Ferry was his 'greatest creation.'

Hamilton's most famous artwork, the collage Just What Is It About Today’s Homes That Makes Them So Different, So Appealing?, used the visual language of modern advertising to emphasize the emptiness and lack of soulfulness of consumerist culture, even while showing how irresistible it was. The work unquestionably influenced Roxy Music and Ferry, who takes it further, suggesting that it creates not only ennui and emptiness but eventually perversion and addiction. 

For Your Pleasure is the edgiest and least stylized of the band's records, but "In Every Dream Home a Heartache" has proven to be the record's most endearing statement and well ahead of its time.

Bonus Track

In Every Dream Home (A Nightmare)

From Joe Jackson’s third album Beat Crazy, comes this paranoid look at the neighbors with a reggae beat. It’s title is similar to In Every Dream Home a Heartache, though it’s on a completely different topic. Seems pretty current in today’s social media-driven world, though.

I’m an immense fan of the Joe Jackson Band’s first three albums and I’ve always felt that Beat Crazy never gets the respect it should for some reason, and someday I’m going to write about that.

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Mind your step as you exit, and have a wonderful day full of music. Thanks for listening.

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