Saturday, November 29, 2008

"Johnsburg, Illinois": Cover of the Week 2

Johnsburg, Illinois

Well! Since you were all so responsive and nice in the first installment, I have a bonus song. It is so short and faithful to Tom Waits' original version (my $10 guitar instead of piano & bass) that it can only really count for a bonus one. Except this is one of my all-time favorite songs and therefore counts as, like, 3 to me. And anyway, you might as well keep going when you have the time. I had the mic set up and everything. And I am sure I am not going to make it some weeks. But it is my New Year's resolution to keep to it. I get extra points for starting early.

And since my brother most helpfully pointed out the posed nature of the first photo of me "singing"(which I WAS. Now where is that comment? oops, I deleted it. Dang.) I decided to just go ahead and go for something "late '70s singer-songwriter moody." So here is the $10 guitar.

Cover of the Week

Well, aren't I indulgent? Or aren't I giving? Or aren't you generous and patient? I am undertaking an ambitious task, that is to record a cover song every week and offer it up here for your enjoyment, criticism, suggestions, tears, or laughter. I just feel like covering some of my favorite songs. The idea is an informal little pastime. I will not be fussing around with these. I just want to post some songs that I sit around the house playing.

Now, will I actually do a song a week? Probably not. But one must set goals in life. So instead of sitting around watching a TV this winter, maybe I will take a few hours a week and post a tune. Yeah, still working on some Buffalo Tom songs as well.

And here it is, week one of the Cover of the Week, the Replacements' "Little Mascara."

My review of the song on from years back.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My New Mid-Century Homes Page

On my real estate web page:

I've just started to outline the history of Lexington MA's significant mid-century homes at the above page. This includes the Moon Hill and Five Fields neighborhoods, both started by The Architects Collaborative, and Peacock Farm, designed and developed by Walter Pierce and Danforth Compton. Techbuilt, Carl Koch, Gropius, and other subjects are covered as well. Includes photos. In the near future, I will link to articles and scans with some history.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Road - Little Bits of Haiku for the Apocalypse

I'm a little late to this book. It sat there in my pile of things to read, CDs listen to, bills to pay, songs to finish, laundry to fold...meanwhile I find 15 minutes to slap up blog posts. I did not come to this book as a huge fan of Cormac McCarthy, though I feel this might change a bit. I've only read 1 or 2 other books and I am aware that this is a departure from earlier work.

But I'm glad I waited. This book hit me at just the right time, it seems. I'm not 100% certain of what I mean by that; maybe any time I chose to read it would have felt like the right time. But this book spoke to me on a fundamental level and has heightened certain essential components of my consciousness.

I read it last week in a matter of a night or two. The last thing I expected was a page-turner. But I gather this is the reaction of many people who have read it. It compels readers for various reasons, some feeling that they are even responsible for helping the characters along, which is a notion that is both absurd and deeply true of any book. Like the tree that falls in the forest, e.g. I don't let myself get overexposed to reviews and criticism of books or movies. I don't want a story spoiled in advance, but more importantly, I don't my own perception clouded by judgments made by others. After forming my own opinion, I seek out those same reviews, at least in channels I trust. I want to compare notes.

I am being elliptical. I think all of this preface is just me avoiding the real topic, that is how profoundly moving I found The Road. Certainly being a father has a lot to do with my extreme reaction. But I have not shaken the effects of having read this now 4 days after the fact. But more significantly is that I don't think I will ever forget it. I think the emotions will become less acute, but the overarching theme, the poetry of the prose, the philosophy behind the story, the allegories and the story itself...

I am torn between re-reading it immediately and trying to move on. Seriously. It was a physical involvement, reading it. I don't know that I can recommend it to everyone who reads this site. I guess I'm more eager to hear from others who have read it.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Will I Still See Suspicion in Your Eyes?

And how about an oldie from one of my favorite records:

'Cause the high heel he used to be has been ground down
And he listens for the footsteps that would follow him around

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Appreciating Kenney Jones

I just plugged in, "Kenney Jones underrated" in Google. I only came up with a few posts on message boards, his name listed in one or two posts, next to posts about guys in Spyro Gyra and metal bands, drummers using mallets, double kick drums, etc.

I've been listening a lot to the Small Faces and the Faces over the past few years, growing up with the latter but only really getting deeper into the former in the past decade. And Kenney's drumming is stunning -- ranging from what might be called power soul, likely what gave the Who the idea for the tagline, "Maximum R&B," to a more restrained approach, which is a typical arc for a maturing musician. The Small Faces had a much higher R&B quotient than the Who, who were more "maximum" than "R&B" in their approach. There's a straight line from the early Small Faces to Led Zeppelin's hard blues (to the extent that Zep -- as they did with the work from so many other artists -- actually lifted Small Faces bits wholesale.) And the relationships between all of those bands in '60s London was closely intertwined, with shared labels, managers, clubs, and side musicians. Their fellow early mods, the Who clearly admired their brethren in the Small Faces, as Keith Moon in his hardest partying days, when he perhaps glimpsed his end, speculated on a hand-picked successor, none other than Kenny Jones. And of course, this is the very drummer they picked after Moon's death.

"Ogden's Nut Gone Flake"

From the Small Faces’ earliest singles like "What'cha Gonna Do About It" to their more experimental psychedelic-era opus LP Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, Jones' power and control were on display. This is the style of drumming that would have made him a musical fit for the Who. But he later settled into a more finessed, restrained style that would have come from some of his R&B heroes like Al Jackson of the MGs and all of those Stax recordings, the same southern “in the pocket” groove that Charlie Watts concentrated on in his transition from a jazz drummer to his role in the Rolling Stones. It is this style that can be heard in its austere extreme on Faces tracks like "Tell Everyone" and the artful drum track on "Love Lives Here." It is not merely the simplicity; it is the musicality of the drums, the groove and the space, the way Jones locks in with the bassist Ronnie Lane. When he does augment the basic backbeat, it is with tastefully placed fills consisting simple snare rolls and one or two rack tom hits. This is the sort of groove-centric style he employs on songs like "Debris" and "Ooh La La." On the latter, most of the track is backed by tension-building percussion and whole-note kicks. When Jones backs the tack-piano solo, he adds a cross-stick snare drum (stick placed on the drum head and clicked lightly on the rim).

"Tell Everyone"

"Love Lives Here"

Even when the Faces went all out and raved it up, as with their biggest hit "Stay With Me," Jones' is just laying it in there simply, with an improbable 16th-note high hat pattern (presaging disco), not some huge-ass reverberating, brutal multi-drum fills a la Jason Bonham or Keith Moon (not a man known for his finesse with the high hat). When Jones really lets go on "Stay With Me," he merely loosens up the high hat to create more splash and adds a few rolls at the end of some bars. Even on the drum solo, he adds a few jazzy, Gene Krupa-like fills - no flaming gongs to be heard here. In fact, it is on this song as well as "Feel So Good" (live), the cover of "Maybe I'm Amazed," and other rave-ups, as the drumming gets a bit heavier handed, that Jones swings more than rocks. I mean, it is rocking and gets heavy, but it never loses that slinky swing. I love this style on other tracks like "Miss Judy's Farm" and the amazing cover of "I'm Losing You." Contrast this to his more Moon/Bonham-like approach on "Come on Children" from the Small Faces in 1965. The man comes out swinging, looking for a fight. The boogie is evident, but the fills are exhilaratingly chaotic and reckless, barely landing in place. Even covering his MGs backing Otis Redding, on "Shake" on the same record, Jones adds way more mid-verse fills.

Back when I was a teenager, playing in my first bands, we used to have endless arguments about with guitarist was the best -- Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Jerry Garcia, Townshend, Keith, Van Halen etc. And there were other such discussions about drummers. But those usually ended around Bonham, Moon, maybe Appice, Neil fuckin' Pert, and so on. I was usually in the minority of pip squeaks advocating for Keith, Charlie, even Ringo, of course. Those are more my guys, along with Levon Helm and musician's musicians like Dave Mattacks. Sure, I love and have always loved the more pyrotechnic Moon and Bonham and Hendrix and Page. But maybe it was because I have never been able to play very fast and/or complicated guitar parts, but I never really tried either. It was not my interest. I hated, HATED Rush, Van Halen and all those huge technically flashy acts. I wanted the guy that played the Harvest beat (Kenny Buttrey), or one who could lay down a clean, feel-good backbeat to play against. But Kenney Jones was the guy who replaced Keith Moon to me and millions more like me, then went on to do those two lame Who albums (yeah, "Eminence Front" was great, but "You Better You Bet???) Not Kenney's fault he joined that party too late, but my knowledge of the Small Faces and the Faces were only a bare minimum at age 13 and 14 -- a few songs on the radio or in the LP collections of the older brothers of friends.) My appreciation of him has become more intense as I get older and listen more and more closely.

Thanks and More

Firstly, my best wishes goes out to the family of Pat Leonard and the Moving Targets family. Pat was the original bassist of the seminal Boston band, the Moving Targets, who were an influence on Buffalo Tom. We learned today that he has recently passed away.

Kenny Chambers remembers his friend here:

RIP Pat Leonard

Thanks to all of you who came down to see my friends, brothers, and me enjoying ourselves down at Lizard Lounge in October, and previously at Toad. And a special thanks to the musicians who played with me, the band that was Tom Polce-less Crown Victoria, Matt Tahaney, Phil Aiken, and Billy Beard, and all the guests: Scott, Paul and Tom Janovitz, Sean Staples, Matt Pynn, Paul Ahlstrand, Tanya Donelly, Ruth Peterson, Mike Gent, Corin Ashley, Tom Perrotta, Joe Guese, anyone I missed?

Hope to get it going again some day. If you're having withdrawal and want to see some great live music at the Lizard Lounge, Session Americana plays every Tuesday. You will love it.