Music Review

Sandy Pearlman R.I.P.

On Monday, July 26, famed rock producer, manager, and lyricist Sandy Pearlman died at the age of 72. His Wikipedia page says he "was the recipient of 17 gold and platinum records." He managed that despite not actually producing many bands, or even albums -- but he left a big imprint on every one he worked on.

Born in Rockaway (Queens), NY in 1943, he got a college degree at the State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island in 1966.

A year later, still in the Stony Brook area, he recruited a band so he could have a series of science-fiction poems he'd written (the Imaginos saga, about a group secretly controlling world history) set to music and performed. He named the band Soft White Underbelly after Winston Churchill's epithet for Italy, but changed its name to Oaxaca after Soft White Underbelly got a negative review at a big concert. After another name change, to the Stalk-Forrest Group, the band recorded two albums for Elektra, but only one single was released, and that only as a promo.

Vinyl of the Week: Three New Pieces of Summer Vinyl!

So this summer I've fallen back in love with vinyl, thanks in part to CC editor Steve Holtje giving me a satchel of essential albums this past winter, thus forcing me to buy a new turntable. It seems like only yesterday when vinyl ruled my world -- when Tower Records was part of my weekly Saturday routine, when vinyl was both King and Queen, and when analog music was so much easier on the ears and a much more enjoyable listening experience. (And one had to actually participate in said experience by flipping the album over after one side was finished playing.) Now I get to replace most of the vinyl I sold or gave away with either 180 gram, remastered versions or pristine used copies found in thrift shops or on the numerous Facebook vinyl user groups I've recently joined. Please indulge me as I "wax" poetic about three new items I recently added to my collection:

Robert Kidney - Jagleg (Exit Stencil)

This record was a long time coming, but well worth the wait; a solo outing by the brilliant band leader Robert Kidney of the equally brilliant NE Ohio juggernaut blues outfit 15-60-75 aka The Numbers Band, now in their 46th year of playing and recording. This glorious effort was recorded live with only two edits by Tony Maimone at Studio G in Brooklyn. It's like you're sitting in the same room with Robert and his acoustic guitar, ingesting his anguished angle on life. Raw and visceral, emotional and deeply satisfying, this is an album only a man who has lived the blues could produce. If you loved the American Recordings by Johnny Cash, then you must purchase this gem as well.

Joe Walsh's Best Serious Songs

I recently posted a Joe Walsh song on my Facebook wall and the reaction was mixed. One commenter wrote, "Walsh always struck me as the real-life Spicoli, and that was about as seriously as I could take him." This is a common misconception about Walsh.

Walsh has had a music career of over five decades.  There are many, many people who know of him mostly as a member of the Eagles (since 1975) who had a hit in 1978 with a funny song, "Life's Been Good." Yet Walsh was a music biz veteran of eleven years’ standing when Hotel California was released in 1976; he would not have been recruited into the Eagles if he had not already established himself as such a distinctive guitarist that he could instantly give them the rock cred they so desired. Already on his resume were the killer riffs of "Rocky Mountain Way," "Turn to Stone," "Walk Away," and "Funk #49." The latter two came with the James Gang, an Ohio band that gathered an international following after so impressing the Who while opening for them in Pittsburgh that they were invited to open for the Who for a whole tour.

May Classical Review Roundup

Hélene Grimaud
Water: Berio: Wasserklavier: Sawhney: Water: Transitions 1-7; Takemitsu: Rain Tree Sketch No. 2; Fauré: Barcarolle No. 5; Ravel: Jeux d'eau; Albéniz: Almeria; Liszt: Les Jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este; Janáček: In the Mist: No. 1; Debussy: La Cathedrale engloutie
(Deutsche Grammophon)
 
Classical purists be warned: almost half the tracks here are not the solo piano recital you might expect from the billing. Instead, Grimaud had composer Nitin Sawhney create electronic bridging miniatures (ranging from 0:56 to 1:41) fitted between the solo piano tracks. This works wonderfully well, changing this album from a traditional presentation into a moody soundscape (though the purist crowd was quick to take offense, witness the extremely snarky review on classicstoday.com). Of course, Grimaud is her usual scintillating self on the solo piano pieces. 

Memorial Music

Memorial Day started spontaneously and independently in several towns and cities in 1866 as a way of honoring soldiers who died in the Civil War by placing flowers on their graves -- thus the holiday's old name, Decoration Day.

At first there was not a specific date, but observation was made more uniform starting in 1868; May 30 was chosen, supposedly because it was not the anniversary of a specific battle and because by then flowers would be in bloom throughout the country. 

Song of the Week: Breanna Barbara - "Sailin' Sailin'"

"Sailin' Sailin'" is our perfect perfect song of the week from the NYC-based singer-songwriter Breanna Barbara and pulled from her forthcoming album Mirage Dreams (No Roads Records). Her blissed-out blues conjure up the stripped down mojo of PJ Harvey and early Delta blues. It was produced and recorded by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) at The Bomb Shelter in East Nashville.

Arlene Wolff Does It Again... Over a Half Century Later

"I'm the kind of girl who's tried everything once," Valerine Perrine purrs in Lenny. As Mrs. Bruce in the Bob Fosse film, her claim, let's say, contained slightly off-color elements.

Not so for the chanteuse Arlene Wolff, who can make the same assertion and whose career path followed a similar timeline (the 1960s onward). She, however, always took the high road. Yes, her notable achievements are indisputably aboveboard and even more varied. She opened for Jackie Mason in his early days, toured Europe as a singer of standards, and as Assistant to New York City's Mayor Abraham Beame, Wolff devised the Big Apple's now iconic street fairs. If that were not enough, for you sailor buffs, she organized the arrival of the tall ships in New York Harbor for the Bicentennial. Then because she had some free time on her hands, she married Manhattan's then Chief of Police (Mickey Schwartz) and did a little sheep farming.