Dusty Wright's Culture Catch - Smart Pop Culture, Video & Audio podcasts, Written Reviews in the Arts & Entertainment http://culturecatch.com/node/feed en The Fine Art Of The Unnecessary http://culturecatch.com/node/3979 <span>The Fine Art Of The Unnecessary</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/460" lang="" about="/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>October 6, 2020 - 17:23</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/music" hreflang="en">Music Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/580" hreflang="en">folk rock</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_H5XuIb5WM?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong>Yusuf/Cat Stevens: <em>TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN 2</em> (Cat-O-Log Records Records)</strong></p> <p>When Cat Stevens burst onto the pop scene in 1966, he was that rare thing for the time, an overnight success. His debut single "I Love My Dog" cracked the UK Top 30. The handsome, fresh faced boy from London was a ready-made star. Long before his Deram Records label-mate David Bowie sniffed success, or his Decca Records contemporary Marc Bolan wore a hint of glitter or effeminacy, Cat Stevens was what they wanted to be. A proper pop star. Born Steven Demetre Georgiou on 21st July 1948 in London to a Swiss mother, and a Greek Cypriot father, he was brought up above the family restaurant in the city's Soho district. In 1965 he began performing in coffee bars as Steve Adams, eventually opting for the name Cat Stevens on account of a girlfriend remarking that he had eyes like a cat, and that his Greek name would be too much for the public to either remember or say. </p> <p>Discovered by Mike Hurst of The Springfields, Stevens had a bold and dynamic, heavily orchestrated sound, and a slew of hits followed in the form of "I'm Gonna Get Me A Gun," "A Bad Night," and "Matthew &amp; Son." However, when his second album, the modestly titled <em>New Master</em> tanked, despite containing the astonishingly mature "The First Cut Is The Deepest," and as the later singles began to fop and flounder, he became dissatisfied with his direction, and blamed what he saw as Hurst's lush production values. He confesses to making unrealistic demands for orchestrations, and being difficult, as means to alienating Hurst, and being dropped by the label. The ploy worked. Having toured with artists as diverse as Jimi Hendrix and Englebert Humperdinck, Stevens was a young artist in search of greater success, but when he was diagnosed with TB and a collapsed lung, the pressures of instant success had taken a heavy toll on the teenager, and hospitalised for six months, a period during which he almost died. He took to meditation, yoga, and introspection, and became a vegetarian. The year he spent convalescing and writing songs would provide him with a raft of material that would sail him through the 1970s, and pave the way to international acclaim and stardom.</p> <p>He hired a new agent -- Barry Krost -- who secured him a deal with A&amp;M in the US and with island Records in the UK, and one that more importantly allowed him to work on and release whatever he liked. With former Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith on production duties he began constructing what would become <em>Mona Bone Jakon </em>emphasising his new introspective stance that perfectly suited the vibe of the new decade. The album's odd title was his affectionate pet name for his penis. That mattered little. The record was a critical hit, and a modest commercial success. However, the haunting first single, the madrigal-like "Lady D'Arbanville" struck No 8 in the UK charts. An unusual song about a lost love for the American actress and model Patti D'Arbanville, but one in which her loss is dealt with as a transposed elegy to her death. A brave song, and one that resonates still with is chill of sorrow. However it was with the release of <em>Tea For The Tillerman </em>that saw Stevens literally become a stratospheric success. Within two years he would release a quartet of albums that set the benchmark for quality and confessional introspection, the final being <em>Catch Bull At Four</em>. All featured his highly distinctive artwork, iconic and illustrative, proof that his one year course at Hammersmith School of Art hadn't gone to waste.</p> <p>More albums and huge success followed, but by 1977 his career was on the skids once more, a near mirroring of his '60s dilemma. Stevens was feeling the pressure of, and dissatisfaction with,the rock and roll lifestyle he had embraced with tremendous vigour. Again he withdrew. This time auctioning off his guitars, he converted to Islam under the moniker of Yusuf Islam, and little was heard of him. He relinquished music completely. Sometimes aspects of religious conversion can mirror the symptoms of a breakdown, the extreme changes in personality and appearance, and the desire to be as far removed from one's old reality as possible. Over the years he courted controversy with comments that are on record over the fatwa issued to Sir Salman Rushdie for his novel <em>The Satanic Verses</em>, and again his rather humourless and devout persona was at odds with who he had once had been. It has been suggested that "Bilal X," the born again, former pop star character in the book is based on Stevens. His denials at being misquoted are hard to take seriously when reports and video evidence is viewed. </p> <p>The common problem with the newly devout of any faith is they've had their cake aplenty, and then resolutely condemn others for partaking in what they once so patently enjoyed. There was no reason for him to entirely abandon his former song-craft, it was not a requirement of his new faith, but was more a reflection of his inner conflict with his past. Gradually as Yusuf Islam, and then Yusuf, and finally Yusuf/Cat Stevens, he crept back into a lesser limelight. Even with Rick Rubin on production duties on <em>Tell Em I'm Gone</em> from 2014 couldn't hide that the voice wasn't what it once was. The albums have sold respectfully, and better than many who've hit the comeback trail, but the glory days were way back then, and the lost years have taken their toll. And then we arrive at thorny issue of birthdays. Are they a milestone or millstone? In truth they are both and Stevens has in his wisdom decided to entirely re-record his calling card album <em>Tea For The Tillerman</em> to mark its fiftieth year. His recordings were amongst the myriad of master tapes engulfed by the Universal Studios fire of 2008 which means have any existing demos or outtakes  have been incinerated, and the barrel was thoroughly scraped for the fortieth anniversary double cd. It is an act of rewriting his personal history. It could have been neatly re-issued in an emphera laden limited edition, and that would have been celebration enough.</p> <p>There are simple reasons why old albums don't get re-recorded, the artist is either too busy with new songs, can't be bothered, or has expired. It is also a profoundly bad and perilous idea. A strange and glaringly apparent absence is evident when this album is approached. There is no name on the cover, only the title beckons with an additional '<em>2</em>' to delineate it from the original. An implicit arrogance is at play with this conceit. At least three generations wouldn't know what <em>Tea For The Tillerman</em> was or is, such is the ephemeral nature of pop memory, or they might assume it is the name of a new band. Had Stevens not gone through such a drastic identity transfiguration this wouldn't be necessary when approaching an aspect of his past. Cat Stevens/Yusuf is printed on the cd, but call me old fashioned, surely it should be gifted the common courtesy of a full frontal acknowledgement. The artwork has been redrawn. The Tillerman has a space helmet and the world is a deeper, darker shade of blue in the background. A Proustian acknowledgement that things are not as they once were and as the music begins we are gifted the familiarity of a strange contempt in action. If it ain't broke it does not require the art of repair. The whole enterprise brings to mind the old lady who took it upon herself to restore a peeling ancient fresco in her local church, and in the process created a Christ that resembled a baboon. Stevens has regrouped some of his original players for the enterprise, another aspect in the remembrance of things that have passed.</p> <p> </p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/nBCJhNiKhFE?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>And thus we begin. "Where Do The Children Play" is nice enough, but the flatness of delivery, a failing of his voice with age that did't need revealing is cringeworthy and painful to hear when pitch and tone is required. With "Hard Headed Woman" he has updated the lyric to represent his happiness with his wife, but again the voice sounds weary and strained, and the dynamic backing doesn't carry the proceedings. There is a Tom Waits-like jauntiness to "Wild World" with a semi-calypso fairground motif. A conversational cover version, sufficiently different to the original to be included as a new song in its own right, a rare moment of joy in an otherwise turgid exercise. "Sad Lisa" is one of the most beautiful songs he ever wrote. Melancholy and riven with empathy it is a masterpiece in its original airing. The version that emerges sounds like an old geezer warbling in the bath, and the sorrow is for the damaged beauty of the original, and not the unhappy girl portrayed there-in.</p> <p>"Miles From Nowhere" begins an almost carbon copy, but the pitch isn't there, it becomes a turgid rock wank-out, a song of utter defeat trying to claim back old ground, and faintly embarrassing to behold. "But I Might Die Tonight" has a spirited air, but becomes plodding and lack lustre in its delivery despite an inspired arrangement. Again the vocals falter and grate and the overall impression is lumbering and limpid. With "Longer Boats" things sound faintly acceptable at the outcome, but again a sense of weariness sneaks into the artificial stridency he attempts to vocally achieve and a risible jam and latent rap is laughable and doesn't work unless he wanted to make an absolute mess like a grand-dad trying to be hip, but farcically floundering. It simple saunters off at the conclusion, lost and unresolved.</p> <p>"Into White" is another of his plaintive masterpieces, and one of the few that that works in these new clothes. It sounds like a hymn to encroaching death, instead of hope, and is a hard song to ruin. "On The Road To Find Out" has a bluesy vibe and clunks along ok in way a bar room blues fashion and pretty much works, like Canned Heat on a mellow turn, and one of the tracks that stands out as it suits where his voice currently resides. "Father And Son" always had an overwrought quality, and seemed to be trying too hard -- a song riddled with self-conscious introspection and earnestness, and on this outing sounds horribly middle of the road. As things close with the achingly brief "Tea For The Tillerman" there is also is an impression of what the actual point of the lamentable process has been?</p> <p>It seems to me that this record is the folly of a rich man with too much time on his hands. A train wreck enterprise, and one best to have been dismissed as a passing thought rather than being gifted actuality. Yusuf should have left the cool Cat that he was in 1970 well alone. There is a gap between that person and the man who made this abortive travesty, and he has nose-dived into the canyon that now divides them both. Stevens/Islam has become his own tribute act, and a rather poor one. He should have used the time spent here to record new material that would suit the voice that he now possess. Take a trip back in time and love the genius implicit in the original. If a cat has nine lives on this airing the tenth one awaits. A fascinating folly and one worth exploring if you care to, but for all the wrong reasons. It doesn't reward the listener and has simply saddened this one. We can learn from the mistakes of others so let <em>Tea For The Tillerman 2</em> be proof that the past really is a foreign country, and remembering it is better than trying to recreate an aspect that was near-perfect anyway. It is a sad affair, like an old man asking his younger self "Who was I?" because, like most of us, with time flying by, he isn't altogether sure.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3979&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="pZsn-as0nVwpz3TXe3vE1XdHAoNWLE4MoUYitR2xe6U"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 06 Oct 2020 21:23:20 +0000 Robert Cochrane 3979 at http://culturecatch.com http://culturecatch.com/node/3979#comments A Roach's Tale http://culturecatch.com/node/3978 <span>A Roach&#039;s Tale</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>September 21, 2020 - 11:53</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/theater" hreflang="en">Theater Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/888" hreflang="en">episodic play</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BL_gEYC1jXQ?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><i>Crush</i></p> <p>Written by Krista Knight</p> <p>Virtualized by Krista Knight and Barry Brinegar</p> <p>Presented by No Puppet Co. via YouTube</p> <p>While there have been some stirrings of in-person theater in New York City recently, either outdoors or limited to one or two audience members at a time, drama remains overwhelmingly in the virtual realm. Krista Knight is among the innumerable playwrights who were forced to find new ways to share their work with audiences when theaters began to close their doors due to the pandemic. In the case of Knight's <i>Crush</i>, one of the six winning works of the 45th Annual</p> <p>Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival, Knight and partner Barry Brinegar's No Puppet Co. turned a canceled in-person run at the festival into a "video puppet play" available on YouTube in six episodes. To create the play's central performance, Knight and Brinegar used VR equipment to "puppeteer" the play's protagonist and matched this live animation with a remotely recorded vocal performance by Ben Beckley (you can get a peek behind the scenes of <i>Crush</i>'s creation by going to Knight's YouTube channel or searching "CRUSH process video" on YouTube).</p> <p>The aforementioned protagonist of <i>Crush</i> is a beat-poet-esque cockroach wearing a tiny beret and, in the first scene, holding a cigarette (or maybe it's also a roach). It's a tall order to make New Yorkers like a cockroach, but Beckley's personality-filled performance and some imaginative visuals succeed. The unnamed cockroach admires the tenant of the apartment that, in his view, they share from what is simultaneously afar and intimately close. His attraction is not, we learn, lessened by his consciousness of its danger (a relatable position, no doubt, for at least some humans as well and responsible for the dual sense of the play's title).</p> <p>The six episodes of <i>Crush </i>correspond to scenes in a traditional, in-person play, and they not only sketch the roach's relationship to the tenant, to the other roaches in the apartment, and to his own mortality, but one scene also basically constitutes in its entirety an electronic remix. While that scene's single line is the most extreme example, the dialogue periodically makes effective use of repetition throughout, in keeping with its beat feel, and ultimately throws a welcome dash of discomfort into the endings of this offbeat, humorous presentation of a one-sided relationship. The visuals keeps the point of view on roach level  throughout, with glimpses of towering, shadowy legs in one scene, and the jazz-inflected music varies from funky to chill to, in part four, dissonantly experimental—matched there visually by engaging experimentation with editing and color. </p> <p>Turning the pandemic's lemons into animated anthropomorphic lemonade, <i>Crush</i>'s video puppet play offers clever, bite-sized (or is it bug-sized?) experimental virtual theater. All episodes of <i>Crush</i>, each between roughly two and five minutes in length,<i> </i>are available on Krista Knight's YouTube channel. You can go directly to the six-part YouTube playlist at: <a href="https://youtu.be/BL_gEYC1jXQ" target="_blank"><em>Crush</em></a>  After watching it, maybe next time you'll even ponder the existential disposition of that roach you just squashed. - <em>Leah Richards</em> &amp; <em>John Ziegler</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3978&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="BuSDagQ4wPwnHWjNqv_Km-p1vl4k21Bawz-GABWoWF4"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 21 Sep 2020 15:53:05 +0000 Leah Richards 3978 at http://culturecatch.com http://culturecatch.com/node/3978#comments The World Turned Upside Down http://culturecatch.com/node/3977 <span>The World Turned Upside Down</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/6959" lang="" about="/user/6959" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Tony Alterman</a></span> <span>September 17, 2020 - 09:29</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/music" hreflang="en">Music Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/780" hreflang="en">classic rock</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/nxjvo4BRf-Y?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>The popular music we grow up with is the music that matters most. It defines us in a way that books and artworks rarely do. As times change, and the music with them, we tend to feel that the music of our own time had some special ingredient, some quality that is lacking in what came after. We can admire and even love the music of later generations (and of earlier as well) but it just doesn't simmer in our souls in the same way. </p> <p>Nothing is quite so fine an occasion to return to the sounds of our youth, and revel in what we had, as an anniversary. Round-number years are great opportunities for them, and there hasn't been a rounder year than 2020 since 2000, so why not go for broke? It is, after all, the golden anniversary of the year 1970, and that feels like an extraordinary opportunity to relive the sounds of times gone by. Break out the beer, and make it a Heineken or St. Pauli Girl, because this was long before supermarkets lined shelves with local craft beers. Get some chips, put on the headphones and load up that old turntable with some seriously scratched vinyl. It's going to be a terrific trip down memory lane.</p> <p>Wait -- who said "Terrifically awful!"? Are there hecklers in the audience? Or could it be those very Baby Boomers who, according to my eloquent preamble above, were the 1970 adolescents who should now be in high celebratory mode? Is it possible they do not look back with sentimental affection at this key musical decade of their youth?</p> <p>Of course, it was a tough year, in many ways. There was the War in Vietnam, which expanded that year to Cambodia. There were the notorious shootings of students at Kent State (by the National Guard) and Jackson State (by the local police). A cyclone in what is now Bangladesh killed half a million people over 10 days, roughly the death toll of the first six months of the COVID-19 epidemic. (George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh the following year was in part a response to the cyclone's devastation, though the toll in the war of liberation that followed was much greater.) There was a near-disaster with a space shuttle, and a real disaster when some Weathermen playing with explosives blew themselves up in a Greenwich Village townhouse. </p> <p>All of this was disturbing, but it is probably not what makes the Woodstock Generation grimace at a year in music whose spiritual beginning might be the Altamont concert disaster on December 6, 1969, presaging the following year's banquet of blood and gore. Then what's eating us about the big 7-0?</p> <p><b>The Year the Music Died?</b></p> <p>First of all, 1970 will be remembered as the year the greatest rock band in history officially broke up -- a sour enough note to put a damper on any celebrations, though it wasn't official until the last day of the year, when Paul McCartney filed suit. (Be on the lookout for apocalyptic echoes this New Year's Eve.) But the sense had been growing throughout the year that they were done. Moreover, it was the year that both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died, and their rather ignominious deaths turned a warped mirror on a youth culture that defined itself by its musical heroes. And other heroes did little to compensate. Cream had already gone to pieces; so had the Animals. Brian Jones, original leader of the Rolling Stones, drowned in a swimming pool in July 1969. In 1970, Diana Ross left the Supremes, Garfunkel left Simon, Dave Clark and the Five went separate ways and the Turtles crawled off in different directions. Bob Dylan, after a string of albums in the sixties that established him as an American songwriting genius, was in the midst of a creative funk that wouldn't end until 1975 with <i>Blood on the Tracks</i>. Even Led Zeppelin, having left the starting gate in a fury with two earth-shaking albums, released what remains their least impressive effort.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5eHkjPCGXKQ?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>But perhaps the worst of it was that what had seemed, oddly enough, like an organic whole fragmented into many directions, none of which obviously had the creative spirit and musical quality that characterized what had gone before. That entity we called "Sixties music" was probably an illusion, or at best a Cartesian product of post-British Invasion rock, California psychedelia, Motown, Macon and the New York folk scene. Nevertheless, the impression set in that we were leaving behind contrapuntal harmonies and old Fender tube amps and poignant acoustic guitar chords in alternate tunings, and into the breach rushed a battalion of noisemakers (Grand Funk, the James Gang, Black Sabbath, Wishbone Ash...) who then fought it out with a new brand of nasal folk rockers who had never played an actual folk song (James Taylor, Neil Young, Van Morrison) and some key-tickling commercial songwriters (Elton John, Carole King) for a place on the charts. </p> <p>As for the pop charts, in December 1969 the Jackson Five released their debut album, followed in short order by two more; this was not taken lightly by rock audiences used to the more serious soul music of the Supremes, the Four Tops, the Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Martha and the Vandellas, and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Flanked by the Archies, the Partridge Family, the Osmonds, the Cowsills and the fading but still active 1910 Fruitgum Company, the Jacksons' onslaught seemed to herald the victory of bubblegum pop and the spiritual death of AM radio. This was a big deal. It was on AM that we first heard the Beatles, the Stones and the Who, as well as most of the psychedelic bands from Haight-Ashbury and Laurel Canyon. It was where "Sounds of Silence", "Incense and Peppermints", "We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet" and "Windy" became known to millions of kids. That's what we were giving over to "ABC-123" and other jingles. It was downright depressing.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/eAyqMJam1D0?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>The whole thing amounted to not just a change in musical taste, but the end of a generation's most characteristic form of expression, which had merged great songwriting with new musical sounds and, not incidentally, aspirations of universal love and peace. The harmonies were for world harmony; the songs were all "folk" songs. The Summer of Love... Woodstock... "All we are saying / Is give peace a chance" - that's the world that was going away, yet the "bomber jet planes" had not turned into swallowtails, in spite of Joni Mitchell's anthem.</p> <p>Not to flog a lifeless turntable, but yet another trauma was that the experimental spirit once exemplified by Hendrix or <i>Sgt. Pepper</i> showed signs of being channeled through the classical avant-garde and free jazz, with bands apparently competing to create the least hummable, danceable, or indeed listenable tracks under the banner of "progressive rock". Even where Stockhausen, Cage and Berio didn't rule, snippets or entire songs based on earlier classical pieces found their way onto album after album. And 1970 would have a good claim to being the coming-out of this trend: a host of brash new artists started (and sometimes ended) their careers with some wild entry into this melee, while more established ones got busy setting up prog obelisks like Pink Floyd's <i>Atom Heart Mother</i> for future imitators to gawk at. (This is all a bit ironic since it has been fairly well documented that the same classical avant-garde was already an important influence on the Beatles in <i>Sgt. Pepper</i>, but this is not about making sense, it's about how things felt at the time.)</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/tSbScjc0cIk?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Bad enough for a year in music? Well, don't relax yet: 1970 was also the year that saw release of an album by psychotic mass murderer Charles Manson (who had originally recorded several of the songs at the Beach Boys' studio), and one by the questionably talented political irritant Screaming Lord Sutch. (If the album is of any interest it is only because the Lord had a truly royal list of backing musicians -- Jimmy Page, who also co-wrote half the songs, John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Nicky Hopkins and Noel Redding, among others.) "Coming down fast" does seem like a good phrase to capture what was going on with rock and roll in 1970.</p> <p><b>But I was so much older then...</b></p> <p>That this somber assessment is one-sided, and perhaps hopelessly scratched, can be seen from a quick look at what did <i>not</i> go awry in that tumultuous year, at least as far as music is concerned. Let's begin again with the Beatles, who did not, after all, fall off the face of the earth. After some earlier efforts of an experimental temper, each of them released their first rock solo albums in 1970. Among these were <i>McCartney</i> and George's <i>All Things Must Pass</i>, which would remain among the most admired post-Beatles recordings. Simon and Garfunkel, who had set themselves a high bar on 1968's <i>Bookends</i>, jumped right over it with their last studio album, <i>Bridge Over Troubled Water</i>, which included the ultimate New York down-and-out saga, "The Boxer". While Dylan may have been in a slump, Joni Mitchell was in anything but. If her first two albums set the strings of one's soul to an alternate tuning, <i>Ladies of the Canyon</i> was not only packed with great songs but began her widely hailed move towards expressionistic keyboard-driven songwriting. Most critics find the source of that in 1971's <i>Blue</i>, but it started with <i>Ladies</i>, which I still think is the better album. Received wisdom also be damned as regards Traffic's <i>John Barleycorn Must Die</i>, an album panned by some, including the inimitable Robert Christgau. This was the album that made Traffic a fixture of 1970's college dorms, and the following year their <i>Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys</i> put the mortar between the bricks, so to speak.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4v8YQ6sU6I4?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>That's <i>beginning</i> to sound like a decent enough year; and then there is <i>Layla</i>, probably the pre-eminent post-cream recording with Eric Clapton. And <i>Abraxas</i>, the album that made Santana a household name. Astonishingly, the Grateful Dead may have released their <i>two</i> best studio albums that year, <i>American Beauty</i> and <i>Workingman's Dead</i>. While Elton John would be moving on to greater popularity and perhaps greater feats of songwriting, in 1970 he not only made two very fine albums that brought him international recognition (<i>Elton John</i> and <i>Tumbleweed Connection</i>, the latter still among my favorites of his) but also performed the famous radio concert that would be released the following year as <i>11-17-70</i>. CSN, as Crosby Stills &amp; Nash are affectionately known, added an ampersand and a "Y" to create <i>Déja Vu</i> with Neil Young -- an album so deeply burned into the musical soul of a generation that one merely has to think of the name and it starts up like a jukebox: "<i>Ca-a-a-rry O-on, Lo-ove is coming</i>...." Not much less significant is The Band's <i>Stage Fright</i>, the last of a breathtaking trilogy of albums that Greil Marcus has characterized (in <i>Mystery Train</i>) as a sort of triptych of the American experience.</p> <p>In the R&amp;B department, or <i>soul music</i> as it was called at the time, it was a year of new beginnings: first albums as solo artists by Diana Ross, Curtis Mayfield and Buddy Miles, and the first Parliament and Funkadelic albums all hit the market. The Five Stairsteps and the Chairmen of the Board had their biggest hits that year. Of course, the big news was Miles Davis' <i>Bitches Brew</i>, which belongs neither more nor less in a discussion of rock music than Soft Machine's <i>Third</i> and other heavily jazz-inflected prog-rock albums. (The following year John McLaughlin would sweep away the boundaries with his first Mahavishnu Orchestra album, <i>The Inner Mounting Flame</i>.) This is a lot to take in, and as you will see in what follows, there was much more than that. </p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BzsmciMNAGU?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Suddenly, 1970 is starting to sound less like the crucifixion of rock and more like a second coming -- a carefully chosen metaphor, as it was also the year of <i>Jesus Christ Superstar</i>. I'm sure we didn't understand then what it all amounted to. In the next part of this series I intend to do a survey of what was really going on that year, if only to disabuse my own generation of the notion that our once rich heritage was suddenly shredded by amateurs with an ax and a fuzzbox, or a synthesizer and a handful of patch cords.</p> <p><em>Mr. Alterman is a writer, musician and native Brooklynite who has taught philosophy around New York City, performs as a singer-songwriter, and writes about local cultural issues on his blog <a href="http://parrotslamppost.blogspot.com/" moz-do-not-send="true" target="_blank">The Parrot's Lamppost</a>.</em></p> </div> <section> <a id="comment-2177"></a> <article data-comment-user-id="0" class="js-comment"> <mark class="hidden" data-comment-timestamp="1600704241"></mark> <div> <h3><a href="/comment/2177#comment-2177" class="permalink" rel="bookmark" hreflang="en">1970</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>I think it would be interesting to read if Mr. Alterman distinguishes between those records which could be considered something of a continuation of the 1960s (I'm thinking perhaps Workingman's Dead and American Beauty) and those that more clearly prefigured the coming decade, such as Layla and John Barleycorn. I'd love to hear his thoughts on this distinction, which i hope we can all agree on, even if our particular candidates differ. Thanks for a great article!</p> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=2177&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="89_TyQa6UMqNEPG2lfQQRrrfVlApAuZeeZSzZYsPRu4"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> <footer> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/user/0"> <div class="field field--name-user-picture field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <a href="/user/0"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/extra_small/public/default_images/avatar.png?itok=RF-fAyOX" width="50" height="50" alt="Generic Profile Avatar Image" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </a> </div> </article> <p>Submitted by <span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Eric Alterman</span> on September 18, 2020 - 16:55</p> </footer> </article> <a id="comment-2180"></a> <article data-comment-user-id="0" class="js-comment"> <mark class="hidden" data-comment-timestamp="1600719640"></mark> <div> <h3><a href="/comment/2180#comment-2180" class="permalink" rel="bookmark" hreflang="en">1970 Revisited</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Regarding the other Mr. Alterman's provocative suggestion, a few things:<br /> 1. There are three more parts coming - the next two will say a little about what was continuing, ending, moving forward, etc.<br /> 2. When I think of 60s rock the first thing I think of is great contrapuntal harmonies - Beatles, Beach Boys, Association, Four Tops, Mamas and Papas, Tommy James and the Shondells, etc. For me, that was all but dead soon after 1970, and in that respect, everything was new.<br /> 3. However, it is far from cut and dried, as the example of the two Grateful Dead albums demonstrate: certainly they have something continuing, as the Dead's origins were in a country and bluegrass; but they are also a break from the psychedelia the Dead had been doing on Anthem, Aoxomoxoa and Live/Dead, and they were very much in sync with the acoustic turn that happened in the new decade (see the next post in this series).<br /> 4. The best claim to new was heavy metal, which was not my cup of tea in most cases. Jazzrock and prog sort of hit their stride; they could be called new, since there was a lot more to come than what had gone before; but early rock and urban blues and both had jazz elements, and as jazz styles and rock more or less changed in tandem. (A bit on this in the 3rd part, but it could really be a separate article.)<br /> 5. So, it's complicated. Traffic had released three albums and several hit singles before 1970; are they part of the new, or continuation of the old? I think you could say that a kind of sound among prog and college-oriented groups matured in the early 70s, so after a few years it was recognizably different from 60's rock.</p> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=2180&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="6-nY9L2P1YDoZJDBF3TzXyx8bIsO4K2Z1bth1kVucQI"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> <footer> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/user/0"> <div class="field field--name-user-picture field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <a href="/user/0"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/extra_small/public/default_images/avatar.png?itok=RF-fAyOX" width="50" height="50" alt="Generic Profile Avatar Image" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </a> </div> </article> <p>Submitted by <span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Me</span> on September 21, 2020 - 14:39</p> </footer> </article> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3977&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="JC5B8WE4omF-dmmPXbGsEz3M3H85rlzvz-7ALrBPrYc"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 17 Sep 2020 13:29:49 +0000 Tony Alterman 3977 at http://culturecatch.com http://culturecatch.com/node/3977#comments Solitary Activities http://culturecatch.com/node/3976 <span>Solitary Activities</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/349" lang="" about="/user/349" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dom Lombardi</a></span> <span>September 16, 2020 - 16:54</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/art" hreflang="en">Art Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/203" hreflang="en">painter</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Image 1: Jaroslava Prihodova, <i>Home Made</i> (2015), stainless steel, bred, 8 x 2 ¼ x 2 3/8 inches  (photo: courtesy of the artist)</p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="750" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-09/image_1_-_jaroslava_prihodova_home_made_2015.jpg?itok=kvy4pyBv" title="image_1_-_jaroslava_prihodova_home_made_2015.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1000" /></article><figcaption>Jaroslava Prihodova, Home Made (2015), stainless steel, bred, 8 x 2 ¼ x 2 3/8 inches (photo: courtesy of the artist)</figcaption></figure><p>Raised in Velký Šenov, in the Bohemia section of the Czech Republic, and currently living in Cortland, New York, Jaroslava Prihodova's life has truly been a tale of two cities. Growing up in a Communist state, with her parents, an aunt and uncle and her grandparents, Prihodova has largely happy memories of those early days. The bucolic setting of her childhood home, that was situated next to a fruit orchard and a vegetable garden, and where chickens and rabbits were raised, the young Prihodova saw life as wholly sustainable and quite secure. On the other hand, there was always that overriding system of order and intolerance for the West imposed by the totalitarian regime that brought change and inspiration to her thinking later in life.</p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="750" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-09/image_2_-_jaroslava_prihodova_critical_error_series_2016.jpg?itok=JdWOKpqA" title="image_2_-_jaroslava_prihodova_critical_error_series_2016.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1000" /></article><figcaption>Jaroslava Prihodova, Objects series (2015), concrete, plastic, 11 ½ x 12 x 7 ½ inches (photo: courtesy of the artist)</figcaption></figure><p>Her art today, can be seen as a compelling and curious blend of what is considered to be the unfortunate divide between fine art and functional design. At times, Prihodova also employs humor while challenging her viewers to think creatively, with the desire to expand preconceived notions of the separation of form and function. I recently had the opportunity to ask her a few questions that I hope will shed light on her complex, and very pure vision about the marriage of art and design.</p> <p><strong>DDL:</strong>  Having never lived further than 25 miles from my birthplace in the Bronx, NY, it is hard for me to imagine the personal mental and physical upheaval that would follow a move from Central Europe to upstate New York. Even given the fact that you have considerably more freedom in the U.S., and having left a country that has Soviet oversight, there is still a lot of reorienting to consider, let alone a language barrier. In reading about your past history in the Czech Republic, you feature quite a few reminiscences of past experiences that helped mold the artist you are today. Was it the Velvet Revolution of 1989 that effected you most, or is it some far less dramatic universal change? Or maybe, was it something far more personal such as the time spent with your grandmother, who really seemed to be the matriarch of the family?</p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="704" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-09/image_3_-_jaroslava_prihodova_objects_series_2015.jpg?itok=jE7WB-te" title="image_3_-_jaroslava_prihodova_objects_series_2015.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1000" /></article><figcaption>Jaroslava Prihodova, Objects series (2015), concrete, plastic, 11 ½ x 12 x 7 ½ inches (photo: courtesy of the artist)</figcaption></figure><p><strong>JP: </strong> Yes, it was a culmination of factors and realities that impacted the angle from which I view the world. As you alluded, my life took an unexpected trajectory when I moved to the Unlined States. In 2002, I was a freshly minted graduate from the Studio of Natural Materials at the School of Art and Design in Usti nad Labem, the Northern part of Czechia. I left everything behind to be with my partner, an American artist I met during my short residency in 2000. After I arrived, I welcomed a period filled with productivity and artistic growth. At the same time, it was a long stretch that was underlined by feelings of displacement and a sense of disillusion. As I spent more time here, a physical and mental distance from my motherland afforded me the ability to evaluate my roots and influences with a certain objectivity. It became more apparent that in contrast to the culture I was trying to understand and adapt to the way I was brought up had everything to do with the way I process my ideas, approach to materials, art in general and also life.</p> <p>I was in the seventh grade when the Velvet Revolution broke out. Even as a teenager, I understood that the situation was charged with an historical significance and would shape the future in a completely new way. The urgency and the weight of events that followed are permanently embedded in my memory. As one ages, the gift of time passed allows seeing reality (transformed in history), in a broader context, personal as well as cultural. When I see footage from the revolution, I am instantly taken back in time. It is an emotional event. It is curious that I feel similar when I come across documents from an earlier time when I was not even born. I once read that trauma or intense emotional experiences are passed on genetically from our ancestors to new generations. I often think that the human body retains memory and associations, almost like other materials such as paper or metal, that the aftermath, the evidence of distress, is always present. For instance, I recall my reaction visiting the Josef Koudelka retrospective at Getty a few years back (<i>Nationality Doubtful</i>, 2014-15). His political images adjacent to photographs from his series from Slovakia and other included series caused me to hold back tears. I had to leave the gallery several times to compose myself. Although I was not even born at the time these images were circling the world, I left undeniably connected to the content, and I felt like I shared this visceral moment with my parents who were young adults at the time 1968 Soviet occupation occurred.  </p> <p>I hold fond memories of my childhood, my home, and the village where I grew up. As I mentioned, my experiences as a child, my interactions with my parents, and my sister, who are all remarkably creative people and my relationship with my grandmother, imprinted sets of templates through which I view my surroundings. </p> <p><strong>DDL: </strong> It is amazing, how as you can sense that: "…trauma or intense emotional experiences are passed on genetically from our ancestors to new generations." I believe this, too, as I accept the theory of the Collective Unconscious. </p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="894" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-09/image_4_-_jaroslava_prihodova_vase_2010.jpg?itok=_SQWXEah" title="image_4_-_jaroslava_prihodova_vase_2010.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1121" /></article><figcaption>Jaroslava Prihodova, Vase (2010), glass, cork, 5 ¾ x 6 x 10 inches (photo: courtesy of the artist)</figcaption></figure><p>In looking at your <i>Dislocation</i> series of 2016, I see a very palpable visual weight coming across. You mention on your website "the expulsion of the German population from Sudetenland after World War II," and how the ensuing vacancies of the homes must have affected your grandfather Ladislav upon his return in 1946. That history very definitely haunts the <i>Dislocation</i> series. Then I look at your <i>Vase</i> from 2010, the <i>Planes</i> and <i>Table Light</i> of 2015, and your design sense applied to the <i>Vklad Series</i>, a ring created in 2012, and I see so many contrasting elements, yet they all somehow relate. Perhaps it is the directness you take to the narrative or the forwardness of the function, mentally and physically, that ties everything together. As Federico Fellini is quoted as saying: "All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography." On the other hand, one can also be of many minds. Which is most true for you?</p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="699" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-09/image_5_-_jaroslava_prihodova_table_light_2015.jpg?itok=TnzdfTEd" title="image_5_-_jaroslava_prihodova_table_light_2015.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="504" /></article><figcaption>Jaroslava Prihodova, Table Light (2015), pine, glass, plastic, 12 x 6 x 20 ¾ inches (photo: courtesy of the artist)</figcaption></figure><p><strong>JP:  </strong>My practice as an artist evolved from mostly formal considerations (aesthetics, use of materials, execution, scale, function, etc.) into a field of deeply personal themes solidified out of the pulp of memories and experiences in the framework of historical amnesia. With the <i>Dislocation</i> series, I let my work break free from obligatory principals and self-inflicted rules, allowing ideas to expand into a contextual narrative. This project is a personal attempt to come to terms with a troubled historical event, with consequences imprinted onto my family legacy. The work challenges the notion of a forgotten collective past, an unresolved political conflict filtered through my experience as someone who is permanently yet voluntarily dislocated from my homeland. Upon reflection, it is also important to acknowledge that the series was conceived here, on stolen land, in a place where I settled. So, how do we resolve the inner conflict with history? Is it possible to surrender to reconciliation instead of letting one be hindered by the burden of tragedy? I believe one can start with an acknowledgment. </p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="1333" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-09/image_6_-_jaroslava_prihodova_dislocation_2016.jpg?itok=_AYwUKcw" title="image_6_-_jaroslava_prihodova_dislocation_2016.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1000" /></article><figcaption>Jaroslava Prihodova, Dislocation (2016), concrete, porcelain, glass, wood, silver-plated brass, silver-plated nickel, sterling s</figcaption></figure><p>I often try to imagine what it was like, starting life over in a new place and physically rewriting history. It is difficult to imagine what my grandfather must have felt when he arrived at this unfamiliar site, and moved into a home that was formerly occupied by a German family, filled with personal artifacts that only echoed a vibrant life. I never had a chance to speak to him about his experience since he died long before I was born. I can only speculate, but my instinct tells me that the prevailing sentiment centered on responsibility for his family. However, I think the place where everything was lost for the family that abruptly departed his home prior to his arrival left a lasting impression.</p> <p>You mentioned the other side of my practice. I don't divert from my work methods too much when I produce objects with utility. Design has always been an interest. I studied the design of lighting for four years, and I adopted some of the principles of art in general. Both art and design are rooted primarily in communication. I was fortunate to study in institutions that were largely built on the legacy and philosophy of modernism. Bauhaus's educational principals were undeniably present in my schooling. Although there are some apparent differences between art and design, I'd like to consider them as twins. One of my favorite designers is Dieter Rams. His ten commandments for good design can apply to both aspects of creative practice. In my opinion, one cannot exist without the other, as Bruno Murani said in his book, <i>Design as Art:</i> "The designer is therefore the artist of today, not because he is a genius but because he works in such a way as to reestablish contact between art and the public, because he has the humility and ability to respond to whatever demand is made of him by the society in which he lives, because he knows his job and the ways and means of solving each problem of design. And finally, because he responds to the human needs of his time, and helps people to solve certain problems without stylistic preconceptions or false notions of artistic dignity derived from the schism of the arts."  </p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="520" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-09/image_7_-_jaroslava_prihodova_fold_2010.jpg?itok=tso60v-7" title="image_7_-_jaroslava_prihodova_fold_2010.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Jaroslava Prihodova, Fold (2010), laser-cut stainless steel, ¾ x 1 ¼ x ½ inches (photo: courtesy of the artist)</figcaption></figure><p>My ultimate objective is the simplicity of form and function while employing the least amount of materials and manipulation. I believe that it is quite a challenging task in both art and design. A good example is a laser-cut stainless steel ring titled <i>Fold </i>(2010). Inspired by origami, the approach illustrates how to utilize material with minimum waste, transform a flat surface, introduce volume, tension, intentionality, and the perception of size and scale.</p> <p><strong>DDL:</strong>  The creativity you show as a curator is as profound as your own artwork. At this time we are speaking, you have <i>Measured Confluence</i> on display at the Dowd Gallery at SUNY Cortland. As the curator of this exhibition, it is your desire to show how art influences science and science influences art -- and where they meet is the purity of design, as function and form coalesce. I imagine this show has been a great experience for the artists and the students to share.</p> <p>First, what inspires your curatorial process, and finally, what is most important for you to project in all of your professional practices?</p> <p><strong>JP:</strong>  I consider curating as another facet of my practice. It is an opportunity to think about art outside of my work, and to be creative in a specific way that does not involve my personal approach to making art. I am fascinated with the process of finding connections in places where they might not be evident to others. Vladimir Nabokov wrote, "There is no science without fancy and no art without facts." My primary focus is to develop impactful exhibitions that reflect and honor the diversity of thoughts, art concepts, and the people who create them. My objective is to bridge art with other disciplines to provide a broader context for our students and visitors. I want to illustrate that visual art is not an intimidating indulgence that exists in isolation, while linking it to various fields of science and humanities, as I believe that art transcends the ability to communicate disparate ideas across many areas of study. Therefore, the challenge for me is to present programs that are relevant not only to our school but also to our local cultural community and still deepen the intellectual engagement through object-based learning that fosters an appreciation for art and its cultural importance in general. We are a small gallery in a teaching institution, which allows us to be flexible with artists we bring to campus but also with collaborations with faculty members from other departments, schools, and institutions. </p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="526" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-09/image_8_-_robert_vlasak_artifact-naturfact_2020.jpg?itok=edBBnOGB" title="image_8_-_robert_vlasak_artifact-naturfact_2020.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="850" /></article><figcaption>exhibition view, Robert Vlasak, Artifact/Naturfact, 2020, varialble size, Dowd Gallery, SUNY Cortland, NY (Image: Robert Vlasak)</figcaption></figure><p>Mounting an exhibition is a big job that requires many details to align in a harmonious outcome both conceptionally and visually. That is where both the purpose and purity of design are most visible. The design of the show is something I take very seriously. That is the moment when everything comes together and where artworks live in a conversation with one another. It seems I push against prevailing trends in exhibition design. I prefer a minimal presentation where the work has a place to tell a story. In that aspect, I am a traditionalist.</p> <p>As someone who navigates both sides of visual arts -- producing and presenting artwork, I strive to propose ideas and forms that might not be obvious on a first glance but somehow reveal themselves in small increments equal to time invested. The reward and impact are always difficult to assess, because all of the artistic aspirations are process-oriented, unfolding over time, and rely on intellectual inquiry. In both practices, I try to emphasize innovation, interdisciplinary investigation, and exposure to cultural inclusion in the world that is continuously in flux.</p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="480" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-09/image_9_-_jaroslava_prihodova_untitled_2019.jpg?itok=QdE2Imho" title="image_9_-_jaroslava_prihodova_untitled_2019.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="720" /></article><figcaption>Jaroslava Prihodova 9: Untitled (2019), Bronze, porcelain, stainless steel, 6 x 4 ¼ x 3 ¼ inches</figcaption></figure><p><strong>DDL:  </strong>In a time of Covid, with shows being cancelled or rescheduled, lives and businesses being turned upside down, and the general way of doing things drastically changing for the foreseeable future -- how have your gallery and studio practices changed?</p> <p><strong>JP: </strong> When we started this interview many months ago, we did not anticipate that the world, not only the physical world but the field of art, could change in a matter of weeks. It is remarkable how much we need to prepare for, adjust, and adapt to. For our gallery, in light of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, it is extremely difficult to proceed with planned shows, and frankly, justify the financial commitment when there is a good chance that the gallery will be closed on a day's notice. I think it's a common problem that many galleries and museums are facing right now.</p> <p>I started to utilize a lot of technology to bring our visitors closer to the art we present. I believe that spatial context is still important. That is why I like to continue to install work in the gallery and employ digital tools to substitute for a lack of accessibility. It is interesting to think about new ways to consume and interact with art. We need to establish new modes of interaction between the viewer and the artwork. I see it as a challenge. If I have to predict what will occur, we might reevaluate our relationship with the immediate. Because most of us were forced to work from home for months, we faced the reality of where and how we live. I hope that this fact will emphasize more, how we live and what we surround ourselves with. This shift has the potential to offer a real platform for artists, designers, and architects to improve our living conditions and reevaluate that relationship to art. I find it fascinating and disturbing at the same time.</p> <p>As for my personal practice, nothing has changed. I proceed with the way I have worked in the past. After all, art production can be a solitary activity that dictates isolation to some degree. In a way, this situation is ideal for artists and creators. The question is how to bring results and outcomes to the audience effectively. Certainly, we have entered a transformative period for the arts.</p> <p>For more information about Jaroslava Prihodova's curatorial project <i>Measured Confluence</i>, follow this <a href="http://www2.cortland.edu/departments/art/dowd-gallery/exhibit-details.dot?exhibitid=97afe911-17f3-4178-bbc6-a5ad0340f1b6">link</a>.</p> <p>For more information about Jaroslava Prihodova's studio practices go to his <a href="https://www.jaroslavaprihodova.com/">website</a>.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3976&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="quy6cdR4HoxB0RzfKL26khOcZxScPONsuI26riui0xA"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 16 Sep 2020 20:54:17 +0000 Dom Lombardi 3976 at http://culturecatch.com http://culturecatch.com/node/3976#comments What A Concept! (4) http://culturecatch.com/node/3975 <span>What A Concept! (4)</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/ian-alterman" lang="" about="/users/ian-alterman" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Ian Alterman</a></span> <span>September 8, 2020 - 10:45</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/music" hreflang="en">Music Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/887" hreflang="en">concept album</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2y-p2l0mDJY?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>In Part 1 of this series (<a href="http://culturecatch.com/node/3968">see hyperlink</a>), I provided the "narrative" concept albums. In <a href="http://culturecatch.com/node/3973">Parts 2</a> and 3, I provided the "thematic" concept albums from A-R. Now we're on to our final grouping -- thematic concept albums alphabetically by group, from "S" through "Y. " It was great -- if exhausting -- fun to do this, and I hope everyone liked it, and maybe even leaned some stuff.</p> <p><strong><i>S.F. Sorrow</i> (Pretty Things). </strong></p> <p>Another concept album that straddles the line between narrative and thematic. The tragic and bizarre tale of the title character, who begins life as a fairly normal, imaginative child, but finds increasing difficulties getting ahead in life as society throws up obstacles, some of which are seriously demoralizing. He then goes on a quasi-spiritual quest with a strange shaman. In the end, he feels angry and disappointed, believing the world and its people are not to be trusted, and he goes into a depression that defines the remainder of his life. Some critics compared the story arc and overall concept to Pink Floyd's <i>The Wall</i>.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jNY_wLukVW0?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>OK Computer</i> (Radiohead). </strong></p> <p>Radiohead's third album was by far their most successful, both commercially and critically. It is a fearsome warning about the rapid advance of technology and the de-humanizing of society.</p> <p><strong><i>Clockwork Angels</i> (Rush). </strong></p> <p>It seems odd that Rush had only this one concept album in its very extensive oeuvre. It takes place in a quasi-Medieval dystopian "steampunk" world lit only by fire, and based on steam, clockworks and alchemy. It touches on love, politics, entertainment and spirituality.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uc6f_2nPSX8?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>Kilroy Was Here</i> (Styx). </strong></p> <p>A criminally overlooked rock opera about a future fascist theocracy in which music is outlawed, told from the perspective of a former rock star. The band made a film of the story, which accompanied their stage show.</p> <p><strong><i>Crime of the Century</i> (Supertramp). </strong></p> <p>Among my top three favorite thematic concept albums -- though the band claims it is not a concept album at all. It (loosely) tells the story of Rudy, a shy and retiring child who is dealing with increasing mental illness, which eventually comes to define his life. "Hide in Your Shell" is among my favorite rock songs of all time.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9SwCVJJwDY8?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>Six Wives of Henry VIII</i> (Rick Wakeman). </strong></p> <p>The former Yes keyboardist's first solo album is a brilliant "classical rock" album that sets Henry's famous six wives to instrumental musical forms. Highly regarded, and deservedly so.</p> <p><strong><i>The Myths &amp; Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table</i> (Rick Wakeman). </strong></p> <p>Here is a section of the synopsis of this album from my previous article on Culture Catch: "If prog is about the…incorporation of Western, Eastern and/or "world music" influences; use of non-standard  chord progressions; use of odd and/or shifting time signatures; use of non-standard instrumentation; an "orchestral" approach to arrangement; extended compositions, often including extended instrumental passages; virtuoso musicianship, often including extended solos; lyrics that tend toward the esoteric or fantastical and/or include numerous literary references; and the use of keyboards and the recording studio itself to create effects, textures, and atmospheres), then this album is almost without question the <i>perfect</i> blending of concept, fantastical lyrics, orchestra, chorus, rock band, and almost every other element of prog noted above. It also happens to be an exceptionally brilliant and exciting album as fresh on the one-hundredth listen as it was on the first."</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_rwNe2QXwrU?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>Tales from Topographic Oceans</i> (Yes)</strong>.</p> <p>Singer John Anderson's paean to certain Hindu principles obtained from several texts and mentors. The album was not well-received by either critics or listeners, and even the band members were split on its success. (Among other things, It led to keyboardist Rick Wakeman leaving the band.) Later re-assessments were somewhat kinder, with many critics and fans noting that much of the music was wonderful, even if the concept and execution were less than cohesive.</p> <p>So there we have it -- a list of every (?) narrative concept album, and a goodly number of the thematic concept albums, from a wide variety of rock genres. With a couple of exceptions, I listened to every single album on this list. And it really was a thrill, particularly those albums I had never heard -- and in some cases, never even heard <i>of</i>.</p> <p>I also promised a (hopelessly subjective) list of my favorites on these lists.  Note that this list does not reflect what I believe are the <i>greatest</i> on each list, only the ones I love most:</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dYXKv3IiTc4?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong>Narrative:</strong></p> <p>1.  <i>Brave</i> (Marillion)</p> <p>2.  <i>Metropolis Pt. 2 - Scenes from a Memory</i> (Dream Theater)</p> <p>3.  <i>The Lamb Lies Down in Broadway</i> (Genesis)</p> <p>4.  <i>Thick As A Brick</i> (Jethro Tull)</p> <p>5.  <i>The Wall</i> (Pink Floyd)</p> <p>6.  <i>Subterranea</i> (IQ)</p> <p>7.  <i>Operation: Mindcrime</i> (Queensryche)</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fGL1_cYFN50?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong>Thematic:</strong></p> <p>1.  <i>Sgt. Pepper</i> (Beatles)</p> <p>2.  <i>Hope</i> (Klaatu)</p> <p>3.  <i>Crime of the Century</i> (Supertramp)</p> <p>4.  <i>Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy</i> (Elton John)</p> <p>5.  <i>Myths &amp; Legends of King Arthur (</i>Rick Wakeman)</p> <p>6.  <i>Days of Future Passed</i> (Moody Blues)</p> <p>7.  <i>Down to Earth</i> (Nektar)</p> <p>8.  <i>Animals</i> (Pink Floyd)</p> <p>9.  <i>Interview</i> (Gentle Giant)</p> <p>10.  <i>Dark Side of the Moon</i> (Pink Floyd)</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3975&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="svpGv5cBh0XbNBPXhfJdzAAdx-ie3b-0tG-2uh2hWvs"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 08 Sep 2020 14:45:00 +0000 Ian Alterman 3975 at http://culturecatch.com http://culturecatch.com/node/3975#comments Night Falls & Lullabies http://culturecatch.com/node/3969 <span>Night Falls &amp; Lullabies </span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>September 7, 2020 - 10:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/music" hreflang="en">Music Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/139" hreflang="en">singer-songwriter</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity align-center"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-09/cecilie-anna-new-bird.jpg?itok=R3oxUkgj" width="1200" height="1200" alt="Thumbnail" title="cecilie-anna-new-bird.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p><strong>CECILIE ANNA: <em>New Bird</em> (Fame)</strong></p> <p>Some of the best albums startle you with their simplistic arrangements, letting the vocals and piano and/or guitar pull you along. Think early Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Cat Stevens, This Mortal Coil, Anthony &amp; The Johnson. Less is more, less allows the poetry of the lyrics and the tone of the vocals and instruments guide you on your musical journey. Add Norwegian siren Cecilie Anna's latest long player to the storied singer-songwriter circle. You may have read a recent review on this site of her outstanding album <a href="http://culturecatch.com/node/3963"><em>I'm Here</em></a> from a few years ago, but this album may be even better. </p> <p>This is music best experienced late at night or on rainy, gray winter days. There is melancholic beauty in each note that is tethered by her delicate yet dynamic piano and keyboard playing. Her mournful vocals suggest an unfussy clarity of divine origin. Moreover, the album opens with a church organ playing a lulling melody and then the reverential vocals of Cecilie drop in a half-minute later:</p> <p>"When the night falls and I</p> <p>Lay my head to rest</p> <p>And the sky turns so weak</p> <p>And falls into the night</p> <p>I have done all I can to follow you</p> <p>'Cause from your heart</p> <p>A light shines on me"</p> <p>We, as listeners, understand immediately that we've been invited to the temple of her soul.</p> <p><iframe seamless="" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=3030008121/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/track=2257798323/transparent=true/" style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;">New Bird by Cecilie Anna</iframe></p> <p>On the title track "New Bird," one of the album's more uptempo confessional ballads, Cecilie shares her personal quest with us. Her piano augmented by her lyrical flute playing and clear vocals. This is an artist laying bare her feelings for her lover.</p> <p>"Lay your head upon my shoulder</p> <p>Lay your thoughts upon my day</p> <p>Lay your hand upon my beating heart</p> <p>I'll see you through the night</p> <p>I'll see you through the morning light"</p> <p>Our very own CC writer and UK poet extraordinaire Robert Cochrane along with Welshman Steve Hywyn Jones (Brodyr-Y-Ffin) supplied the evocatively simple, but brilliant ballad "Stranger Canyons;" lyrics by Rob, music by Steve. Just vocals and piano emoting:</p> <p>"Consider what the years have done</p> <p>Laughter still, but sorrows found</p> <p>Follows us where tears can run</p> <p>Over and over </p> <p>Through</p> <p>Stranger canyons, stranger canyons"</p> <p>Her voice seems to find solace in the truth of the lyrics; each note gaining strength by recognizing the ravages of time on one's life. The resignation that time marches on.</p> <p><iframe seamless="" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/track=3263490532/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/" style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;">Winter Turns to Spring by Cecilie Anna</iframe></p> <p>And on the very next song, "Winter Turns to Spring," she finds hope in the dawning of a new day, a new season of hope. Hope springs eternal when love is at stake, when love is a worthy reward, even one may have to wait for it across "borders" or years. </p> <p>"I'll never leave you</p> <p>‘Cause you never left me</p> <p>Across these borders</p> <p>Through heart and time</p> <p>I'm still here</p> <p>'Cause you never left me</p> <p>I know I'll see you</p> <p>As winter turns to spring"</p> <p>Produced by Gisle Ostrem and Cecilie with a religious reverence throughout, <em>New Bird</em> nourishes the spirit with each listen. And it is a rare and beautiful bird, indeed.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3969&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="fjFRu3C5xENqHWajKJEpk8PU3HkxhPCaa0QIn5un1_Y"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 07 Sep 2020 14:00:00 +0000 Dusty Wright 3969 at http://culturecatch.com http://culturecatch.com/node/3969#comments What A Concept! (3) http://culturecatch.com/node/3974 <span>What A Concept! (3)</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/ian-alterman" lang="" about="/users/ian-alterman" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Ian Alterman</a></span> <span>August 31, 2020 - 20:07</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/music" hreflang="en">Music Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/887" hreflang="en">concept album</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lc7dmu4G8oc?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>In <a href="http://culturecatch.com/node/3968" target="_blank">Part 1</a> of this series (see hyperlink), I provided the "narrative" concept albums. In <a href="http://culturecatch.com/node/3968" target="_blank">Part 2</a>, I provided the "thematic" concept albums from A-J. Now we're on to "K" through "P," and it is appropriate that we should start with The Kinks' superb paean to the "British Way" -- as much a must-hear album as <i>Sgt. Pepper</i> or <i>Pet Sounds</i>.</p> <p><strong><i>The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society</i> (The Kinks)</strong>.</p> <p>The Kinks were the masters of British slice-of-life and internal history stories. Only early Bowie (who was contemporaneous), and XTC (who were influenced by The Kinks) could come close. But Ray Davies is the undisputed king of this genre. This wistful paean to a lost way of British life is nothing short of breath-taking. Every song is a concise "memory," brilliantly conceived and executed. This is a truly unique album in rock and a must-listen for anyone who has never heard it.</p> <p><strong><i>Hope</i> (Klaatu). </strong></p> <p>Klaatu came onto the scene in 1976 with many people asking "Is this the Beatles reunited?" -- such was the writing, arrangement, production, and especially vocals and harmonies they created. Although they clearly were <i>not</i> the Beatles, the band fed the rumor (deliberately?) by refusing to release any information about themselves or the recordings. It came out years later that they were three Canadian musicians and a producer/engineer. Their debut single, "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft," was as Beatle-esque as anything could possibly be, and also revealed their penchant for space-themed songs. (The song was covered by, of all groups, The Carpenters, whose version is actually very good.) Their debut album was a mish-mash of songs influenced by the Beatles, Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, ELO and others. And their ability to channel those influences into something brilliant and listenable was truly extraordinary. Their second, concept album straddles the line between narrative and thematic: it is narrative in the sense that it is a "story"; however, while there are characters, it lacks the "personal" story aspect of narrative concepts. The story is about a planet that has been destroyed both from within (as a result of some sort of fascism) and without (as a result of interstellar war). The sole survivor of the planet is the lighthouse keeper, who uses a massive laser to warn approaching spaceships of the dangerous amount of debris circling the planet. Using rock band, orchestra, and some truly jaw-dropping studio effects, they create the kind of concept album that The Beatles might well have created had they remained together.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/FUlIOM3glDI?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>Misplaced Childhood</i> (Marillion). </strong></p> <p>Marillion has had two lives: the first was with its original founder and songwriter, Fish, with whom they wrote four albums (and helped create the neo-prog subgenre); the second is with its newer songwriter, Steve Hogarth (h), with whom they wrote their ultra-brilliant narrative concept album, <i>Brave</i>. <i>Misplaced Childhood</i> was the band's third album with Fish, and arguably their best. Conceived during a 10-hour LSD trip, this autobiographical account of Fish's childhood is about as genuine and intense as this theme can be written. As an aside, "Heart of Lothian" is one of my favorite prog-rock songs of all time.</p> <p><strong><i>Deloused in the Crematorium</i> (Mars Volta). </strong></p> <p>Uber-progressive rock trio Mars Volta burst onto the scene in 2003 with this uber-radical concept album based on a short story by its founders, about a man who goes into a coma after overdosing on morphine and rat poison. (It was based on the actual death of a friend of one of the group's founders. And in a case of extremely horrific irony, one of the other founders died of a heroin overdose just one month prior to the album's release.) Even for progressive rock aficionados, the "music" and arrangements on this album were very extremely heady stuff when they appeared.</p> <p><strong><i>Dirty Computer</i> (Janelle Monae).</strong></p> <p>Not quite rock, not quite hip-hop, not quite rap, this unique -- and daring -- entry is nevertheless brilliantly well-crafted and infectiously listenable. Prince produced the single ("Make Me Feel"), and also worked on the concepts and music for the album just prior to his death. (His "touch" is definitely present.) The theme, according to Monae, is "an homage to women and the spectrum of sexual identities." Per Wiki: "The album's 14 tracks can be grouped into three loose categories: Reckoning, Celebration and Reclamation. The first deals with Monáe's recognition of how she is viewed by society, the middle explores her acceptance of 'the cards she has been dealt,' and the closing tracks deal with her reclamation and redefinition of American identity. Overall, the album is Monáe's attempt to 'step into a more authentic self.'" The final track, "Americans," is incredibly apropos of the recent protests over the murder of George Floyd.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/POZNheF-KdY?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Before we continue, as noted in my <a href="http://culturecatch.com/node/3968" target="_blank">synopsis</a> of Nektar's <i>Journey To the Center of the Eye</i>,  some artists actually "specialize" in thematic concept albums, some for whom their entire oeuvres are comprised of them. In the next section, in addition to some remaining one-offs (and two-offs), we will take on these groups, including The Moody Blues, Nektar, Alan Parsons and Pink Floyd.</p> <p><strong><i>Days of Future Passed</i> (Moody Blues). </strong></p> <p>Simply the recounting in music of a day in the life of an Everyman, this 1967 release was among the albums that would lead to the formal christening of "progressive rock." It was also the second of three albums (the first was The Who's <i>Quadrophenia</i>, see above) for which a special recording studio was built specifically to record it (Deram Records' Panoramic Sound Studio).</p> <p><strong><i>In Search of the lost Chord</i> (Moody Blues).  </strong></p> <p>With an umbrella theme of "quest and discovery," this album touches on spirituality, philosophy, music and several other topics.</p> <p><strong><i>On the Threshold of a Dream</i> (Moody Blues).  </strong></p> <p>Widely considered their best album, this 1969 release is essentially a psychedelic journey through inner space. (Sorry, but I've wanted to write that sentence for some time. And it <i>is</i> perfectly descriptive of the album.)</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1IIC3YBY3DI?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>To Our Children's Children's Children</i> (Moody Blues).  </strong></p> <p>A meditation on children, child experiences, growing up, and getting old.</p> <p><strong><i>A Question of Balance</i> (Moody Blues). </strong></p> <p>The "balance" here is of manifold opposites: day and night, life and death, happiness and sadness, love and hate, war and peace, truth and lies.</p> <p><strong><i>Remember the Future</i> (Nektar). </strong></p> <p>See my comments about Nektar in the narrative section. This was their first thematic concept album, released in 1973.  It is a loose indictment of what we are doing to the world. It tells of Bluebird, a mentor/teacher, giving advice to a young boy. As an aside, the members of Nektar were fervent environmentalists. Their narrative album dealt partly with nuclear war. This album deals with overall concerns about our planet. And <i>Recycled </i>(see below) also deals with environmental themes.</p> <p><strong><i>Down to Earth</i> (Nektar). </strong></p> <p>Even a bunch of serious environmentalists have to have some fun at some point. More "straight' rock than progressive psychedelia and musical experimentation, this wonderful paean to circuses is simply brilliant, and great fun, and has their "catchiest" and most uplifting songs.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4If_vFZdFTk?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>Recycled</i> (Nektar). </strong></p> <p>Okay, enough fun. Back to environmental concern. But this time with a slightly lighter tone. Using a combination of the "straight" rock used on <i>Down to Earth</i> and some elements of progressive rock, this may be Nektar's best album overall. From my synopsis of the album in my "Absolutely Essential Progressive Rock Listening Guide" here on Culture Catch: "With <i>Recycled,</i> the band finally mastered a crucial element: the use of keyboards and the recording studio to create textures and atmospheres that truly enveloped the music. With ecology and the environment as their theme, Nektar delivered a masterwork of beauty, poignancy, and complexity, centered around guitarist-songwriter Roye Albrighton's unique and compelling guitar style."</p> <p><strong><i>Downward Spiral</i> (Nine Inch Nails). </strong></p> <p>Just bordering on narrative concept, this unexpected concept album from industrial/metal rock band Nine Inch Nails deals with a man who finds himself in a "downward spiral" as a result of the society he lives in and the cards he was dealt, and ends with his death by suicide.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZyJzylk8d_M?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>Mothership Connection</i> (Parliament). </strong></p> <p>George Clinton "codifies" the infamous mythology of P-Funk. Not your mother's concept album, but a real hoot.</p> <p><strong><i>Tales of Mystery and Imagination</i> (Alan Parsons)</strong>.</p> <p>This clever album uses music and lyrics to relate some of Edgar Allan Poe's greatest and best-loved stories.</p> <p><strong><i>I Robot </i>(Alan Parsons).  </strong></p> <p>Loosely based on Isaac Asimov's stories under the same title, Parsons was forced to modify the album when Asimov's estate informed him that the title had been optioned by a film/TV company. The upshot is that he had to remove the comma between "I" and "Robot," and had to make the stories somewhat more generic. Even given this, it went on to become his second biggest-selling album.</p> <p><strong><i>Pyramid</i> (Alan Parsons). </strong></p> <p>A meditation on Ancient Egypt, centered around the Pyramids of Giza.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QYwTaAl0ZOg?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>Eve</i> (Alan Parsons). </strong></p> <p>I have not heard this album yet. According to Wiki, "The album's focus is on the strengths and characteristics of women, and the problems they face in the world of men."</p> <p><strong><i>Dark Side of the Moon</i> (Pink Floyd</strong>).</p> <p>As with <i>Sgt. Pepper</i>, there is little that has not been said about this album. It has been deconstructed so many times, in so many ways, that If someone does not know about it -- or even have heard most or all of it -- then that someone must be living under a rather large rock. Still, as noted in the introduction to this article, it deals with "the depression and/or madness that can follow as a result of various elements and aspects of human experience and society." And for those who want to try it, if you are going to listen to it as the "alternative soundtrack" to <i>The Wizard of Oz</i>, you need to start the album immediately after the MGM lion's third roar. (Don't forget to turn the sound off on whatever device is playing the film.) And while my attempt at this worked pretty well, and while it does not quite work as a true "soundtrack," there <i>are</i> several moments when the coincidence of lyrics and/or music with the film are truly stunning.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fGL1_cYFN50?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>Animals </i>(Pink Floyd). </strong></p> <p>Loosely based on Orwell's <i>Animal Farm</i>, the "Dogs" are society's predators, the "Pigs" are the greedy capitalists, and the "Sheep" are the mindless, obedient members of society who allow the behavior of the other two. This vicious screed is among the band's best works.</p> <p><strong><i>The Final Cut</i> (Pink Floyd). </strong></p> <p>This follow-up to <i>The Wall</i> was originally intended to be the third disc of that album, but the record company had no stomach for underwriting a 3-album set, and discord between Roger Waters and David Gilmour delayed the recording anyway. If <i>The Wall</i> was a quasi-autobiography of Waters' life, then <i>The Final Cut</i> is an even more personal account of what he views as Britain's betrayal of its armed services, including his father's service in WWII, by engaging in the Falklands War.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3974&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="seQi4aBfoLHA358Bf5Hb1xXINM1grMxX65rfUjJF4YQ"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 01 Sep 2020 00:07:28 +0000 Ian Alterman 3974 at http://culturecatch.com http://culturecatch.com/node/3974#comments What A Concept! (2) http://culturecatch.com/node/3973 <span>What A Concept! (2)</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/ian-alterman" lang="" about="/users/ian-alterman" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Ian Alterman</a></span> <span>August 24, 2020 - 11:38</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/music" hreflang="en">Music Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/887" hreflang="en">concept album</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2OFB6K3UNTQ?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>In <a href="http://culturecatch.com/node/3968">Part 1 of this series</a> (see hyperlink), I provided the "narrative" concept albums. So now let's take a look at some of the best and most fun thematic concept albums. Even at its current length, this is not an exhaustive list, so please forgive me if I left something out. (I am happy to addend this list, if suggested.) This list is alphabetical by artist, and is broken into three parts.</p> <p><strong><i>Pet Sounds</i> (Beach Boys). </strong></p> <p>This album may or may not have been the very first concept album in either category. As noted above, even as a "thematic" concept album, it uses that term a little loosely. Composer Brian Wilson admits that <i>Pet Sounds</i> was inspired by the Beatles' <i>Rubber Soul</i>, and in particular by John Lennon's song "In My Life." (Wilson was quoted as saying he would like to be able to write one song as good as that before he died) "In My Life" was the first Beatles song that expressed "introspection" and self-assessment; these would end up being the themes of <i>Pet Sounds</i>. The lyrics on the album are sometimes a tad immature, but successfully serve to get the theme across. The songs run the gamut from very good to masterpiece, with elements such as sudden changes in tempo, unusual chord progressions (especially for what became known as California rock), and complex orchestrations. However, there are three things that make <i>Pet Sounds</i> particularly important and influential. First, although George Harrison beat him to it by using a sitar on "Norwegian Wood," <i>Pet Sounds</i> was the first album to feature multiple non-standard rock instruments, beyond saxes. For example, it was Wilson's -- and rock's -- first use of the Theremin (predating "Good Vibrations" by several months). It also included such disparate things as French horn, accordion, ukulele, bass harmonica, banjo, glockenspiel, and bicycle horn. [N.D. Maybe <i>Pet Sounds</i> was an influence on P.D.Q. Bach?] It also used lots of percussion other than a simple trap set. Second, the production values on the album broke ground in several ways. For example, Wilson said that he was attempting to mimic Phil Spector's famous "wall of sound" technique; yet Wilson pulled it off much more successfully than Spector himself, by avoiding the "bombast" that became associated with Spector's work. Wilson also used what was then state-of-the-art recording equipment in ways that had never been attempted, something that would directly and heavily influence <i>Sgt. Pepper</i>. Third, in this last regard, Paul McCartney notes that <i>Pet Sounds</i> "inspired" <i>Sgt. Pepper</i>. (McCartney also cited "God Only Knows" as one of the greatest songs ever written.) And although the Beatles had already begun playing with sonics and studio techniques on <i>Revolver</i> (which was released just three months after <i>Pet Sounds</i>, and was thus contemporaneous with it), the band saw <i>Pet Sounds</i> as a "musical and production challenge." Little did anyone realize just how much further the Beatles would push the envelope.</p> <p><strong><i>Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band</i> (The Beatles). </strong></p> <p>Seriously, what can be said about this album that has not already been said? As noted above, it was "inspired" by <i>Pet Sounds</i>, both musically and sonically. Yet who could have imagined the degree to which it would outpace its own inspiration? The story is well-known. Having given up touring a year earlier, and wanting to put the madness of Beatlemania completely behind them, Paul McCartney came up with the idea of writing an album as if the Beatles were an entirely different band, using a pseudonym. And contrary to much of what has been written, there was no pushback from John or the others; they all supported the idea. The reason I know this is that I had a wonderful conversation about <i>Sgt. Pepper</i> with George Martin at an Audio Engineering Society convention in the mid-00s. All of what I am about to relate here comes from that conversation. <i>Sgt. Pepper</i> had three primary influences. The first was <i>Pet Sounds</i>. The lads began by realizing that the songs on <i>Sgt. Pepper</i> had to be something even well beyond some of those on <i>Revolver</i>, and the production had to be beyond state-of-the-art. With regard to the writing, the second major influence was (and I hope you're sitting down) some of the "wilder" music being produced at the time, including Frank Zappa, and the avant-garde music that was inspiring Zappa and others. Both McCartney and Lennon were apparently familiar with, and listening to, such composers as Edgard Varese, Arnold Schoenberg, and even Karlheinz Stockhausen. (McCartney apparently really likes Stockhausen.) The third major influence on <i>Sgt. Pepper</i> was (hold on to your hats) Les Paul. His influence was large enough that Martin said to me, quite straight-forwardly, that "without Les Paul, <i>Sgt. Pepper</i> would not have been made." (As an aside, Martin told me that the boys absolutely revered Les. When John and Paul began playing skiffle, three of the first songs they learned were "How High the Moon," "World Is Waiting for the Sunrise," and "Vaya Con Dios.") When it came to <i>Sgt. Pepper</i>, Martin said that he actually spoke with Les occasionally (not necessarily specifically about the album) and once in a while Les would make suggestions for recording ideas (since Les had developed the eight-track system by then; it was also used on <i>Pet Sounds</i>). Some of the ideas that were taken from Les' records or from Les himself included backward looping, playing with variable speed (e.g., recording a part at 33 rpm, and playing it back at 45 rpm, or vice versa), and, most importantly, "slaving" two eight-track decks together to create the first quasi-16-track recording, allowing them to "bounce" more tracks without loss of signal: on certain songs (particularly "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite," "Good Morning," and "A Day in the Life"), there are actually 24 tracks bounced down to 8-cum-16. But, of course, as much as <i>Sgt. Pepper</i> advanced music and production, its greatest impact would be socio-cultural. A good argument can be (and has been) made that here is no album that has had nearly as broad and extensive an impact on the world as <i>Sgt. Pepper</i>.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/PuGScu_MmSA?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>School's Out</i> (Alice Cooper). </strong></p> <p>A lamentation on lost youth (after high school graduation), most people missed that this was, in fact, a wonderfully conceived thematic concept album. Almost certainly his best, with every song a little gem.</p> <p><strong><i>Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence</i> (Dream Theater). </strong></p> <p>Following up on their amazing and very well-received narrative concept album (see Part 1), Dream Theater wrote a thematic concept album. The five "shorter" songs each relate a different type of personal struggle, including alcoholism, loss of faith, self-isolation, and the sanctity of life and death. The sixth song, separated into six parts, deals with mental illness, including bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, autism, post-partum depression, and dissociative personality disorder. The first song -- "The Glass Prison" -- begins a suite of five songs spread over five albums ("The Twelve-Step Suite") which relate drummer Mike Portnoy's personal struggle with alcohol; the songs encapsulate the 12 steps of the A.A. program. Needless to say, given its themes, this can be a very difficult album to listen to, though it is lyrically and musically quite excellent.</p> <p><strong><i>Octavarium</i> (Dream Theater). </strong></p> <p>Probably the most clever thematic concept album of them all. This was the band's eighth studio album, coming after its fifth live album. There are eight white keys and five black keys in a keyboard "octave" (in the key of C), which is the musical distance between one key and the same key above or below it. The album is comprised of eight songs, each in a different key, and each segueing seamlessly into the next using sound effects or other studio tricks. The first seven songs are in the keys representing the seven "white" keys; the title song, which ends the album, is in the same key as the opening song, except that it has five parts, each of which is in one of the "accidental" keys (the "black" keys); these, too, segue into each other seamlessly. This album also contains the third in drummer Mike Portnoy's "Twelve-Step Suite."</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WB3rQ8cQQxc?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>Obsolete</i> (Fear Factory). </strong></p> <p>Like Radiohead's <i>OK Computer </i>(See Part 3, coming soon), this industrial rock theme album is a fearsome warning about the rapid advance of technology and the de-humanization of society.</p> <p><strong><i>Duke</i> (Genesis). </strong></p> <p>There is a great deal of debate among Genesis fans whether this was actually a thematic concept album. I'm on the fence, but leaning toward the affirmative. Written mostly by Phil Collins during his very ugly and painful divorce, the songs all seem to speak to aspects of his psyche as he lost his wife. This album has always been the most difficult for me to listen to, given that I broke up with my live-in girlfriend of 2+ years just a few months prior to the album's release.</p> <p><strong><i>Three Friends</i> (Gentle Giant). </strong></p> <p>Gentle Giant came out of the starting gate as a full-blown uber-progressive rock band. Initially comprised of six multi-instrumentalist/vocalists (three of whom were brothers) whose lyrics and music expressed a very deliberate and wicked sense of humor, the band went through a couple of personnel changes early on. The first of their three thematic concept albums is the simple story of three friends whose lives take them in very different directions. However, in the end, none of them is satisfied with their lives. Do they meet up in the future? The album is left ambiguous on that score.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/f8H7wxdZM_M?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>The Power and the Glory</i> (Gentle Giant). </strong></p> <p>The tale of a man who proves the adage that "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Wanting to do good in a political position, our anti-hero allows the power to go to his head, and becomes the very person he loathes, becoming a ruthless despot.</p> <p><strong><i>Interview</i> (Gentle Giant). </strong></p> <p>Taking the (loose) form of a (inane) radio interview by a potential manager, this album is an anti-paean to the music industry in general. The title song stands alongside Pink Floyd's "Have A Cigar," Queen's "Death on Two Legs" and XTC's "Funk Pop a Roll" as among the most vicious indictments of music management ever put to music.</p> <p><strong><i>American  Idiot</i> (Green Day). </strong></p> <p>There is some argument over whether this is a narrative or thematic concept album. My understanding is that it did not become a true "narrative" concept until it was re-written for the band's brilliant and successful Broadway show. I am certainly willing to hear otherwise, and place it in the "narrative" category, if that's where it belongs. In any case, this "punk 'rock opera'" tells the story of "Jesus of Suburbia," a lower-middle-class suburban American teen who is unsatisfied with his life and moves to the city. His "coming of age" story is heavily influenced by his concern about the times he is living in (the GWB era), and his fear of the future. Based loosely on both <i>Tommy</i> and <i>Quadrophenia</i>, as well as <i>West Side Story</i> and <i>Jesus Christ Superstar</i>, the album was critically well-received, and went to #1 in ten countries.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Q8JsBM613Fw?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>Seventh Son of a Seventh Son</i> (Iron Maiden). </strong></p> <p>One of rock's most beloved heavy metal bands gives us a meditation on good and evil, heaven and hell, and the balance of the universe.</p> <p> </p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/TYgokXvaLRk?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong><i>Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (</i>Elton John).</strong></p> <p>Many people didn't catch the thematic nature of this album. Using a <i>Sgt. Pepper</i>-ish idea -- i.e., that Elton John and Bernie Taupin are "different artists" than the ones we know (the psychedelic <i>Pepper</i>-like cover art -- years after that era was gone -- is an obvious give-away) -- the real theme here is a brilliant  autobiographical sketch of their career together. Some of the songs (e.g., the title song, "Bitter Fingers," "Meal Ticket," "Writing") are specifically about them as a writing duo. In my opinion, this really <i>is</i> Elton's "<i>Sgt. Pepper</i>"; unlike <i>Don't Shoot Me</i>, <i>Goodbye Yellow Brick Road</i> and other previous albums, <i>Capt. Fantastic</i> is not focused on hit-writing (although it is ironically difficult for Elton to write songs that don't become hits; even "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" was an "accidental" hit), but on something more serious and mature. Songs like "Tower of Babel," "We All Fall in Love Sometimes," and especially "Tell Me When the Whistle Blows" are in a different class of songwriting than most of what he and Bernie were writing previously. And because the songs were not hits (with the exception of "Someone…"), it is Elton's most continually listenable album, since the songs remain "fresh." As a former semi-professional EJ song stylist, I have a huge sentimental attachment to this album.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3973&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="p01gjFBjZyvHIGzeq4gpk_58Ec5XuS_CTDhj5uup9QQ"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 24 Aug 2020 15:38:35 +0000 Ian Alterman 3973 at http://culturecatch.com http://culturecatch.com/node/3973#comments An Invisible Hallmark of Quality http://culturecatch.com/node/3972 <span>An Invisible Hallmark of Quality</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/460" lang="" about="/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>August 22, 2020 - 10:59</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/music" hreflang="en">Music Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/886" hreflang="en">arranger</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YWvm9F44fio?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Del Newman isn't exactly a household name, though he resides quietly, but resolutely, in the music collections of millions. A ghost at the feast of sound, he was a craftsman, a background genius, and a man responsible for realising the best in the work of others. An aural jeweller, a setter of songs with an ear for the finest elements residing in an idea, his work spans three decades of output. Some of the best selling records of the Seventies and Eighties bear his fingerprints. He should be placed in the same category as George Martin, and with time, and now sadly in his absence, he eventually will be.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yHox1frzKXs?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>If you own <em>Anticipation</em> by Carly Simon, or <em>Mona Bone Jakon</em>, <em>Tea For The Tillerman</em> and <em>Teaser And The Firecat</em> by Cat Stevens. If you've danced badly to "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" by Rod Stewart, or possess a copy of <em>Deceptive Bends</em> by 10cc or been mesmerized by "Live &amp; Let Die" Paul McCartney &amp; Wings' Bond theme, it is Del Newman conducting George Martin's arrangement; you know his work. Should you listen to Art Garfunkel's <em>Breakaway</em> or <em>Fate For Breakfast</em> or <em>Lefty</em> LPs or Elton John's singles "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" or "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" then you've been in the presence of Del Newman. He did arrangements for George Harrison, a pleasure he had no wish to repeat, and for Harry Nilsson on <i>A Little Touch of Schilmsso</i><em>n In The Night</em> whose creator he described as mad and someone whose brain was out to lunch most of the time.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0OEWBq_jzuA?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Newman was responsible for the strings on "American Tune" by Paul Simon from <em>There Goes Rhyming Simon</em> and for producing Randy Vanwarmer's "Just When I Needed You Most" a song his determination saw become a single, despite record label reluctance, and subsequently a huge hit. He later worked on four albums by Squeeze. Amongst the others he assisted were Diana Ross, Scott Walker on <em>Stretch</em> to which he contributed his composition "Someone Who Cared," Leo Sayer, Cliff Richard, John Cale, and Johnny Mathis. He produced Brian Protheroe's timeless polaroid gem of dissolute bedsit London bohemia <em>Pinball</em>, but in the early Eighties gave up on his music career and became a mature student at Exeter University again, and afterwards concentrated on teaching.</p> <p>Born Derrick Martin Morrow in London on 5th October 1930, the son of an Irish nurse and a Doctor of West African heritage, whose father had been a village chief. Adopted at a few months old by the Newman family who recognised and encouraged his interest in music, from the age of eight he had lessons in cello and piano, and was sent to a grammar school. After National Service he studied music at Exeter University and went on to Trinity College of Music. Amongst those who taught him were the composer Elizabeth Lutyens and the conductor Antal Dorati. Newman made his vinyl debut in 1967 with <em>Flower Garden</em> as the Del Newman Sound, a mix of his own compositions and hits of the day like "I'm Your Puppet" and "If You Go To San Francisco," and he featured as the guitarist on Gordon Giltrap's debut album the following year. He produced a few other albums of easy listening material that fared well in Italy, but from the early '70s he was in constant demand as an arranger, conductor and occasional record producer. He even did the arrangements for Uri Geller's thankfully lone foray into vinyl in 1974. He also added his graceful magic to albums by Charles Aznavour, Peter Frampton, Family, and Francoise Hardy.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KKRST_GlhYM?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Del Newman was a remarkable and unique figure. His fingerprints are all over the music of the '70s and '80s, but he is mostly reduced to a foot-note as arranger and you have to listen to figure which tracks he had a hand in. His tremendous lightness of touch perhaps explains why he isn't as valued as he deserves to be, since he wasn't one to lay claim to any sense of personal greatness. In 2010 he wrote <em>A Touch From God: It's Only Rock &amp; Roll</em> an entertaining take on his life in music that would have benefited from someone to prompt him to give greater detail and insights, but that really wasn't his style. He'd been there and done it and that was it. A man of mixed heritage working a time of extreme intolerance makes him all the more relevant and remarkable and a stalwart groundbreaker by virtue of simply existing, and then there's his unquestionable gifts. Many will continue to listen and appreciate his work without even realising that they are. A compliment, albeit an invisible one, unless you read the small print.</p> <p>Del Newman died 10th August 2020 in Carmarthen, Wales. His daughter is the singer Delphi Newman.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3972&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="p0SObQ_PjTHnNFLIGArAt1WR-bRdn8tbWhG9QV2Vw1w"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 22 Aug 2020 14:59:31 +0000 Robert Cochrane 3972 at http://culturecatch.com http://culturecatch.com/node/3972#comments The Ultimate Feminist, Existentialist Horror Film That Captures the CD-19 Zeitgeist? http://culturecatch.com/node/3971 <span>The Ultimate Feminist, Existentialist Horror Film That Captures the CD-19 Zeitgeist?</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>August 20, 2020 - 12:50</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/829" hreflang="en">horror</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hcMFjCPkP3M?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Imagine a child picking up a copy of <i>Grimms' Fairy Tales</i> only to discover that the last several pages of each story have been torn out. Are Hansel and Gretel turned into mincemeat by the evil witch? Is Snow White rented out by her height-challenged pals to Sealy for their mattress ads? Does Rapunzel yell, "Fuck it all!" and get a pixie cut?</p> <p>That's how I felt about Amy Seimetz's <i>She Dies Tomorrow, </i>one of the more acclaimed films of the month. At a "pivotal" moment, <i>Tomorrow</i>'s oft-annoying heroine, Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil), who you might wish would kick the bucket today, looks out at a barren landscape, gazing this way and that, with smudged eyeliner. We follow her despondent glare as she continues looking but not seeing, and so on and so forth for close to two minutes. A very long two minutes. (One of her smudged eyes is also in the opening shot.)</p> <p>Please note that there have been very few characters in my rather prolonged career as a film viewer, which started out with <i>The Lady and the Tramp, </i>who I couldn't bear being alone with for 120 seconds. Amy handily joins this rather elite grouping.</p> <p>But just so you will not be swayed my relentless naysaying that will continue for the next few paragraphs, let me quote from Jeanette Catsoulis's rave in <i>The New York Times</i>: "At once a fascinating experiment and a claustrophobic puzzle . . . [this film] could be about many things or nothing at all."</p> <p>Hmmm. I think Jeanette has covered all the bases, and in doing so, she has found a catchphrase that can be applied to all future books, films, and Kanye West tweets.</p> <p>The first 22 minutes will especially make you think <i>She Dies Tomorrow </i>is about nothing at all. Recovering alcoholic Amy is in her new L.A. house. She calls a friend, Jane (Jane Adams), and mumbles into the phone:</p> <p>"Can you come over?"</p> <p>Jane: Are you speaking into the phone? I can barely hear you.</p> <p>Neither can we.</p> <p>After the call, Amy places a Mozart LP on her turntable ("Requiem in D Minor, K. 626," a piece the composer died before finishing). She’ll do this three more times. (Apparently, there is nada in this film that doesn’t bear relentless repetition.) At first, she sways to the Amadeus. She then embraces a wall before rubbing against it. Finished with the wall, walking barefoot, Amy pushes a cardboard board box aside so she can lie on a couch and start touching her wooden floor. Amy then lowers herself to the floor and caresses it. It's like being locked in the closet with your Aunt Tilly who's stoned. You remember when Tilly put on her spangled dress, went into the backyard, and stood on a ledge with a leaf blower. Well, Amy does that, too.</p> <p>Critic Josh Larsen (<i>Larsen on Film)</i> explains: "[I]t could also be read as a metaphor for many things: despair in the face of death, yes, but also the all-consuming nature of depression, the contagiousness of anxiety, and the existential angst that loneliness can bring." Are those many things? Lots of overlapping there, Josh.</p> <p>At this point Jane shows up, and Amy tells her that she wants to be made into a leather jacket and "I'm going to die tomorrow," which is apparently contagious because then Jane goes home, creates some of her amoebic art utilizing a microscope of sorts, and then traipses over to her sister-in-law's birthday in pajamas, where she interrupts a lengthy discussion about porpoises that rape. Jane switches topics to tell everyone that <i>she</i> is going to die tomorrow. Soon everyone realizes they will die tomorrow, too, except for some audience members who might feel they are perishing there and then.</p> <p>Now, I'm not being exactly fair here. Jane Adams is an amazing actress, who can without breaking into a sweat imbue tragedy with comedy. When she's on screen, <i>She Dies Tomorrow </i>becomes a delightful black comedy. Her seduction of an emergency room doctor is a high point.</p> <p>Yet for the most part, the film suffers from a hollow center, which if considered intentional, might be a possible critique of where we are now. Edward Albee wrote of the folks inhabiting his <i>A Delicate Balance</i>:<i> </i>"These people are teetering between being able to survive and being thrown into chaos." They are juggling self-deception, but unlike with Seimetz's creations, they are doing so with wit.</p> <p><i>She Dies Tomorrow </i>in the end is sort of a Rorschach test for critics and audiences alike. The picture gains power by being released during the current pandemic. If it had been released during the measles outbreak, oy! would you have gotten different reactions.</p> <p>(After screening in drive-ins, Neon has released <i>She Dies Tomorrow </i>on Digital on Demand.)</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3971&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="aFfj7BXY7nu3FHHNsasp9j3Y8jFz2bUdl1SrRIZuSgo"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 20 Aug 2020 16:50:47 +0000 Brandon Judell 3971 at http://culturecatch.com http://culturecatch.com/node/3971#comments