Friday, September 30, 2011

American Avant-Garde Film-Joseph Cornell, Wallace Berman, Storm De Hirsch, and Pat O'Neill

Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986 is an essential collection of American experimental films.  The majority of the films featured in the collection are from the 1950's and 1960's and are invaluable to anyone interested in the period and in film. Below I've linked to 4 of the 26 short films you will find on the set.  These films can be watched repeatedly, both with sound and without, some are silent, some have an original score, others have new scores composed by John Zorn.  You of course also have the option of providing your own soundtrack and watching how that colors the experience, the possibilities are endless and experimentation is what its all about.  Non-narrative film is to narrative film something like poetry is to prose. It's a completely different experience from narrative film, and one that deepens with repeated viewings.

                              Joseph Cornell's By Night With Torch and Spear (new music by John Zorn)

                                                                 Wallace Berman's Aleph
                                                            Storm De Hirsch's Peyote Queen
                                                                      Pat O'Neill's 7362

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

1990-91-LONS, KMD, Brand Nubian, Tribe and 3rd Bass

Here are some of my favorite Hip-Hop videos from 1990-91.  I used to rush home from class to get lifted and watch Rap City on BET.  It seemed like every couple of weeks there was a new song or group coming out that took things to another level, a new development or refinement in the sound of this music that was progressing, both lyrically and from a production standpoint, at an astonishing rate. 

It's hard for me to believe this was 20 years ago - carefree days all gone now, but I'm glad I was just the right age to witness this highpoint in the culture.  There were maybe 10 or 20 people in Austin that listened to East Coast Hip-Hop at the time, or that's how it seemed.  Looking back I'm struck by the innocence and enthusiasm, by how much dancing went on and just how overall positive the vibe was during this period.  

Zev Love X aka The Young MF Doom, check out Grand Puba pretending to play vibes
The original version of the video had a black guy in white face, MTV wouldn't show it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

1970- Zabriskie Point, Blowed Up Real Good!

                                                            Click for Zabriskie Point

Here's the soundtrack to Antonioni's Zabriskie Point including the two songs originally omitted from the OST release, The Rolling Stones' "You Got the Silver" and the Roy Orbison's "So Young". I have mixed feelings about the film itself, a kind of a love/hate relationship.  I usually end up watching part, if not all of it, at least once a year.  But the main characters are so dull, sullen and unlikeable that I find myself routing for the cops and the establishment, though Mark's line "I'm willing to die, but not of boredom" IS a pretty good one.

There's no denying the deft use of music throughout the movie.  The soundtrack establishes a coherent cosmic American road movie mood by drawing on music cues as diverse as Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead to John Fahey, Roscoe Holcomb and Patti Page. The film is also valuable for how it captures elements of a confused but compelling time that quickly passed- as one of the black militants in the opening says "a molotov cocktail is a mixture of gasoline and kerosene, white radicalism is a mixture of bullshit and jive".  But what really makes Zabriskie Point worth watching repeatedly is how beautifully the film is framed and photographed (the DP was Alfio Contini), particularly the desert landscapes and the amazing finale where Michelangelo blows stuff up real good! Here's the SCTV Farm Film Report that sung its praises and the famous end sequence.  Zabriskie Point makes a great double bill with Barbet Schroeder's More from 1969.

1. Heart Beat, Pig Meat- Pink Floyd
2. Brother Mary- The Kaleidoscope
3. Dark Star (excerpt)- The Grateful Dead
4. Crumbling Land- Pink Floyd
5. Tennessee Waltz- Patti Page
6. Sugar Babe- The Youngbloods
7. You Got the Silver- The Rolling Stones
8. Love Scene- Jerry Garcia
9. I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again- Roscoe Holcomb
10. Mickey's Tune- The Kaleidoscope
11. Dance of Death- John Fahey
12. Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up- Pink Floyd
13. So Young- Roy Orbinson

Friday, September 16, 2011

Both Sides Now

Track Listing-

1. Both Sides Now- Judy Collins- I remember hearing this on AM radio in my family's green station wagon as a kid, and it made me sad even then.  Here I am staring into the void, Thor doll in hand.

2. No Regrets- Tom Rush- I like how the verses struggle with the sentiment of the chorus.  "Strange faces in your place can't keep the ghosts away" is a great line.  I posted the promo film he made for the song a couple of weeks ago, so here's a live clip.

3.  Cycles- Frank Sinatra- The whole Cycles album is worth seeking out, just look at how happy Frank looks on the cover, like he can't believe he just recorded this shit!  Actually it IS a good record.

4.  Reason to Believe- Tim Hardin- I got nothing, beautiful song though.

5. Don't Cry No Tears- Neil Young & Crazy Horse- Zuma might be my favorite Neil Young record. Buck up you cry babies.  And yes that cactus is giving you the finger.

6. Just The Other Side of Nowhere- Kris Kristofferson- Kristofferson's music always reminds me of being a little kid in my Dad's brown pick up truck, driving around with him and listening to this on 8-track, seems like he always had an open beer in the car. Back in the day when open containers were not against the law and no one wore seat belts. Good times.

7. Houston-Dean Martin- Written by Lee Hazelwood, who spent some time in Texas as a youth.  No one can ever accuse Dino of taking himself seriously, see clip below.  One neat trick he had was clapping for his own performance, sometimes you got to let the audience know what to do.  Smiling helps a lot to, people like that, (nothing worse than cats who are too cool to smile) let's them know that you're having fun and that they should join you, they don't want to see some miserable bastard up there, acting like he's doing everybody a favor for crawling out of his hole.

8. Jean the Machine- Scott Walker- Scott could write humorous- "she made her way here from Hungary, a refugee with a voice like Callas, but somehow she couldn't get on, so she took it off at the local palace" and even better "my landlady said Jean's a commie spy, each time I ask for the reason why, my landlady said it's a front, she bumps and grinds codes to a audience of immigrants."

9.  So Easy She Goes By- David Blue- It's all over now Baby Blue.

10. Tracy Had A Hard Day- West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band-Whoever came up with the "speed kills" campaign forgot to tell Lemmy and Mark E. Smith. I know that's anecdotal evidence, but still, perhaps it should be revised to "speed ages you prematurely" or just "speed makes you ugly".

11. Early Morning Blues and Greens- Diane Hildebrand-Covered by the Monkees on Headquarters.

12. God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)- Randy Newman-  So God wrote a song and then got Randy Newman to record it.  And as it turns out God is kind of on a bum trip, really a bit of a downer.   "I burn down your cities, how blind you must be, I take from you your children and you say, how blessed are we, man you really must be crazy to put your faith in me, that's why I love mankind". Thanks God, you're a real mensch.

13.  She Sang Hymns Out of Tune- Dillards- A nice version of this Jesse Lee Kincaid song-look I can't always wow you with insights, just listen to it.

14. One Time and One Time Only- Tom Paxton- Lots of Tims and Toms in this mix and lots of Elektra Records (continues to struggle for something interesting to say, keep reading I get better).  Sweet song. Video below for the Last Thing on My Mind.

15. Once I Was- Tim Buckley- "Soon there will be another to tell you I was just a lie". Clip of the song "Happy Time" below cause I couldn't find a clip of "Once I Was", there's a cool later day beatnik atmosphere to this performance.  Ya dig?  Lee Underwood knows just what to do with a song, and the fact that he's bearded and balding makes me like him even more, this is no easy life.

16. Love's Made A Fool of You- Tom Rush- Lovely Buddy Holly cover.  Tom was reportedly a heartbreaker.

17. A Message to Pretty-Love- I dig Arthur Lee's affected vocal style on this song.  The harmonica here reminds me of one of my cats crying.  "I go slip, slip away".

18. Barstool Blues-Neil Young & Crazy Horse- Told you I liked Zuma a lot.  Now this is how a guitar should be played. The line about the friend who died a thousand deaths reminds me of that Pete Townshend poem about Brian Jones, "A Normal Day For Brian, A Man Who Died Everyday".

19. It'll Never Happen Again- Tim Hardin- Those first two Tim Hardin records on Verve are the bees knees.

20. Looks Like December- Antonio Carlos Jobim- "I leave all my confusion in the machine".

21. On A Rainy Afternoon (Does She Need Me)- Bob Dylan- One of the nicest bits in Eat the Document, Bob hits a real sweet vulnerable spot with his voice on this one, and it still knocks me out sometimes just how good he could be, especially when firing on all cylinders in 1966.

22. Time Operator- Scott Walker-"And I wouldn't care if you're ugly, cause here with the lights out I couldn't see, you just picture Paul Newman, and girl he looks a lot like me".

23. Kiss the World Goodbye- Kris Kristofferson-  Another song where somebody is insisting they have no regrets and still manages to come off maudlin as hell like that's about all they got. Good song though and the character's getting ready to end it all anyway so no hard feelings!  We won't have this guy to kick around much longer "I'm gonna leave whatever's left of my luck to the losers".

24. Both Sides Now- Frank Sinatra- This is from the Cycles album as well.  And so I'll put you down gently back where I found you.

Bonus Bing!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

1959-Playboy's Penthouse-Cy Coleman & Lenny Bruce

Hugh Hefner's first television show Playboy's Penthouse showcased some great musicians and comics in a setting that was more natural than most television, then or now.  I love the footage of Lenny just talking off the top of his head and being quick, witty and funny as usual.  Sadly both his general literateness and  'of the time' references sail over most people's heads these days and they have no idea what he's talking about, much less get the humor.  I love in the Dylan documentary Don't Look Back how Bobby Neuwirth at one point references Bruce's Lima Ohio routine when talking about Joan Baez wearing one of those blouses you can see through "and you don't wanna". The sign of a hep cat.

Cy Coleman is not as well known today as he should be, through primarily a composer and pianist, he had a nice laid back but swinging style of performing.  Cy wrote many great tunes like the ones featured here "Witchcraft" and "The Best is Yet to Come".

Thursday, September 8, 2011

1981-Fire Escape In The Sky


Released in 1981 Fire Escape In The Sky is a collection of Scott Walker songs compiled by Julian Cope, the lead singer of The Teardrop Explodes.  The songs featured are from Scott's first five albums, all of which were out of print and somewhat difficult to find at the time this record was released. Fire Escape in the Sky did much to revive interest in Walker and played a crucial role in the critical reevaluation of his importance in the early 1980's.

In direct contrast to the Scott Walker record I posted last week, the focus here is on Walker's own compositions. This collection was quite deliberately compiled and designed by Cope to remove Scott from any MOR context so that the post-punk crowd (check the stark gray cover) could appreciate his "Godlike Genius".  I don't own this record and I don't think it has ever been issued on CD, but I've placed the tracks in the correct running order so that the reader can get an idea of another important side of Scott's career and how context-specifically packaging and sequencing in the case of records- can do so much to shape the impact and import of music.

Side One:
1. Such a Small Love
2. Big Louise
3. Little Things
4. Plastic Palace People
5. Girls From the Streets
6. It's Raining Today

Side Two:
7. Seventh Seal
8. The Amorous Humphrey Plugg
9. Angels of Ashes
10. Boychild
11. Montague Terrace (In Blue)
12. Always Coming Back to You

Friday, September 2, 2011

1968-No Regrets & Cycles

Two beautiful clips from late 1968, a promo film Tom Rush made for his classic song "No Regrets" from The Circle Game album on Elektra Records, and Frank Sinatra singing "Cycles" from his 1968 TV special Francis Albert Sinatra Does His Thing.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

1966-The Godz 8mm film

Wow! 8mm footage of the Godz in 1966 by experimental filmmaker Jud Yalkut, who at the time worked with the members of the band at Sam Goody.  See the Godz as they play, watch football, have a party, dance, get high and eat cornflakes!  Notice the Fugs poster in the background at one point.  The soundtrack is a medley of the incredibly hypnotic "Lay in the Sun" that segues into "Turn On", both songs from their 1966 debut on ESP records Contact High With the Godz.  Like many I was turned on to the Godz by the Lester Bang's piece "Do the Godz Speak Esperanto" which you can find in the anthology of his writings edited by Greil Marcus- Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung.