Porter Wagoner, R.I.P.

Yesterday marked the end of an era in the world of country music. From the early 60’s, when his weekly television show introduced both Dolly Parton and Speck Rhodes to the world, all the way to the first years of the new millennium when he hosted on the Grand Ole Opry. Porter Wagoner was the real deal, as colorful as the Nudie suits he helped popularize with his original back-up band, the Wagon Masters.

No, he might not have launched a come-back campaign like so many of the greats eventually do. No hit song with Dwight Yoakum to pull the old memory out for a little dusting, all ready to display to the “new generation” of country fans. No, if you weren’t already on Porter’s bandwagon, there was a pretty good chance you’d already missed the ride. Wagoner’s fans were hardcore. They were not above an appreciation for some of the up-and-coming C&W hotshots, but to a man they agreed that very little of their shtick would even be possible if not for Porter Wagoner blazing the trail for them.

The closest the man ever tried for a “come-back”, to my knowledge, was in the early 80’s when he replaced his entire band with female musicians (good-looking ones, at that). I always figured he was inspired by the success of all-girl bands like the Go-Go’s, but it could have been simply a lecherous plot to woo more gentlemen to the shows. Was it a successful campaign? Who knows. I remember it. That’s saying something.

I also remember the Sunday ritual that was regularly observed in our house during my early childhood. A memory that stands, with little company from those particular years, in the closets of my mind. I don’t remember going to church at all, but I cannot forget all the family gathering around the tube when WKY broadcast the southern gospel showcase, “Gospel Jubilee”. “Jubilee!...Jubilee!....you’re invited to this happy jubilee!”

Which was all fine and good. I had no problems with that old-timey preachin’ songs. But it couldn’t end soon enough, as I saw it. Buck Owens was on next and there was no way I was missin’ the Buckaroos. There was something about Buck, I couldn’t help but like the guy. The way he sang with Don Rich as if they were the closest friends on and off the stage. Great songs: “Tiger by the Tail”, “Welfare Line”, “Together Again”.

Oh yes, indeedy, Buck had a great show. Even though my old man thought Buck was top notch, he was always waiting for the next 30 minutes. The following half hour would be ruled by the man, Porter Wagoner. Porter’s show was, like Buck’s, a venue for other crooners, most of whom have gone on to careers almost as illustrious as those of these two kings of Sunday morning music shows (the format having fallen out of public demand since the first airing of “Hee Haw”).

Of course Dolly would be there, charming all the men (especially those within the 14-17 demographic). It is a well-known fact that Parton wrote her greatest song, “I Will Always Love You”, for Porter Wagoner. Although I don’t know enough of their histories to say this with authority, I have always believed that the chief Wagon Master got himself enmeshed in a web of romantic proportions with the sultry Ms. Parton. That may or may not have been the case, but it makes sense to me.

To be honest, I seem to remember that back in those days I was a bigger Buck Owens fan than I was of Porter’s. I thought Porter’s delivery was not as charismatic as Owens’. I thought he was kinda goofy looking and those flashy sequined suits put it over the top. I appreciated him, because my dad knew what was good when it came to that kind of music. I trusted his opinion and it was obvious that he thought very, very highly of the Porter Wagoner show.

I did eventually come to like his music when my grandmother gave me a copy of his “Best of Porter Wagoner Volume One” for my birthday. That’s when I first paid attention to chestnuts like “The Carroll County Accident”, “Big Wind”, “The Cold, Hard Facts of Life”, the morbid “Banks of Ohio”, the silly “You Got to Have a License”…I had much respect for the legend back then. The only thing that’s changed is the degree of my appreciation. It has increased steadily since he chucked in the all-girl backing band.

He went on to record one of the creepiest, bizarre and downright disturbing songs ever to be introduced into the country & western songbook. “The Rubber Room”…what a concept! I guess it was not politically incorrect back in those days to call a mentally imbalanced person a “psycho in the rubber room”. It’s a harrowing exhortation from a man whose time on this level of reality has come to an abrupt halt. Thrown into a small hospital room with no small ceremony, he is billeted next door to a man who is 3 times nuttier than he is. How can one sleep when this guy is hitting the walls, screaming a woman’s name? “The Rubber Room”! How classic. If you’re over the age of 50 and have never heard “The Rubber Room”, well mister, you’d better correct that or you’ll never be recognized for having any knowledge of and/or appreciation for music of any kind.

And while we’re at it with the great songs…How about that “Big Wind”? You live in Oklahoma and you know that the guy’s not singing about flatulence. There is a well known legend here in the Sooner state. It centers around a storm, a tornado, actually. The siren whistles are blowing, the TV weathermen screaming dire warnings to the fools who hadn’t made it out to the cellar yet. Farmer John struggles to locate his brood to usher them into the safety of the underground shelter (which also doubles as a bomb shelter, as well). One by one he gets ‘em below. But for whatever reason, the heroic Farmer doesn’t get a chance to join them and perishes, blown away by the twister. This legend is the one recounted in the lyrics to “Big Wind”. It’s not an optimistic story, true…but it is a stern warning to anyone foolish enough to wind up outside of the cellar when the serious stuff starts hitting the fan.

Oh, I could go on and on, raving and ranting about the hundreds of awesome songs he wrote. The hours of fine music he’s responsible for. The millions of people who have been entertained at his shows…he was a master showman.

It’s always difficult to use the word “was” when describing a man’s attributes. As if I had any idea about who the man was outside of the persona he projected for his fans. That may be so, but “was” is still a heartbreaker, and it is never anything less than a surprise when it applies to an icon like Porter Wagoner.

Lung cancer takes another one.

And a good ‘un, at that.


A link to more novel in progress

As promised, I am providing a link to the bipolar confessional blog, where you'll find a much lengthier excerpt. I'm actually pretty happy with the way it's going up to this point.

Will probably be more before the day is done, but this is what I've got for you.

Click Here to read

An excerpt from my novel in progress.

All this time to kill and I decided to do something constructive with it. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, I am once again embarking on the writing of a novel. Yes, I have attempted this feat on a few previous occasions, with only a couple of short stories to show for it. But this time I can feel it in me bones. It's gonna be long enough to be considered a novel.

A strange novel, wanting in form, yet the vignettes seem to all mesh together and so it might actually turn into something original and hopefully enjoyable.

What I have written is a bit lengthy, so I've come to the logical decision not to attempt to post it all here. I may try to do it on the Bipolar Confessional blog. If I do, and it works, I will post a link to the page where it's at, and you can peruse it at your own pace.

Until then, I hope you enjoy these opening pages. It doesn't have a title just yet.

He didn't know what else to do. It seemed to be the only course of action. He was perfectly willing to do whatever he deemed necessary. His sweet-tooth was callin' the shots, though, so what HE deemed necessary was heavily influenced by the munchies.

So, this being the case, he hoisted himself from the couch and put his shirt back on. It was a cool shirt, at least he thought so. Swan Song label, man! Zeppelin, eh? Yeah, cool as fuck.

He grabbed his car keys after slipping into his worn-out flip flops. With no small degree of swagger he strolled out to the ratty 1990 Toyota Celica he called his own. The ignition fired up on the first try…the Celica may have looked like it barely survived a nuclear war, but it was reliable…damned reliable.

His destination was not far from home. Walking distance, actually. It probably would have turned out better for him had he just walked. Only two blocks to his favorite grocery store, which also doubled as a psychedelic utopian oasis when his head was in a good place.

Al & James Grocery. That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. He knew that store like it was his own grub filled mansion. Every aisle was memorized. As you walk in the store, he would have told you, you’ll see the produce section. Lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, a vegetarian’s dream. Fruits, too. Enough fruit to make a man sick of fruits in general.

“To your left”, he would continue, “is the soda pop aisle. I love this aisle. I drink it all, perty much, except for that nasty diet shit. Pepsi, Coke, I don’t give a fuck. It’s all the same to me. Motherfucking Sprite, that’s some refreshing swill. Hell, if I’m broke I’ll substitute one of the other “doctors”, the cheap-ass store brand, for the king of soft drinks, Dr. Pepper. Dr. Thunder, Dr. Shasta, Dr, This and Dr, That. None of ‘em tasting much like the Pepper. But hey, if you’ve only got 50 cents, well, they’ll do.”

Aisles, aisles, long aisles, crowded aisles. Aisles that smelled like spices. Aisles that smelled like coffee, a delicious, familiar flavor. Aisles, chilly from the frozen food showcases to either side. Aisles, clumsily stocked by the graveyard shift, already fucked up before the day’s half over.

Miles of aisles to choose from, but on this sunny Oklahoma afternoon the man in the patchouli-stinking Led Zeppelin shirt had only one aisle on his mind.

Ice cream, baby. “This is what it’s all about”, he says, talking to an investigative reporter sent by the “In Your Corner” team of do-gooders from the channel 4 news crew. ”This is the serious fuckin’ shit! You think I couldn’t eat me 3 or 4 gallons at a time? Just watch me. I do it up every which way but loose…I’m gonna get me a belly-full of Rocky-fucking Road. Make me a hot fudge sundae. That be a good idea.”

The reporter’s camera crew had shut down and moved on, but Terry, who was also the main anchorwoman at KFOR , hung around in an attempt to introduce herself to him on a less-professional level.

“That was a beautiful soliloquy you gave about those bomb pops. Has anyone ever told you that you look a lot like Sylvester Stallone in profile?”

“No”, he answered, a certain gleam in his eyes, “But it has often been remarked by those who know me that I bear an uncanny resemblance to Richard Gere”.

“So what’s your name?”

“Richard Gere.”

She giggled…”I would never have placed you…you look too much like Morgan Freeman; I could never have mistaken you for Gere.”

“Okay”, he conceded. “My name…no, my REAL name…uhh…that would be…”

“Yes…surely you’ve not forgotten it?”

“Timothy. That’s it…no, really. It’s Timmy Carver. You can call me Jim, if you want to. If I can call you Terry…”

Terry replied, “Oh, I would not have it any other way”.

“Has anyone ever told you, Terry, that your beauty shames the Venus de Milo? That your elfish eyes seem stolen from the Mona Lisa? That the very scent of you makes me swoon and stagger?”

“Yes”, Terry said. “I’ve heard all of that before… A couple of guys used that Mona Lisa line on me, one right after the other…but somehow it seems like when YOU say it…well that makes all the difference in the world. Now, Mr. Ice Cream Expert, what have you to say about the Blue Bell brand ice cream sandwiches?”

He smiled. “By God, you’ve made my mind up for me. What have I to say about ‘em? I say they are the shit. I say that they are on my top-20 list of favorite ice cream confections. Yes, ma’am, I’ve got a lot to say about them, but truth be told, I got Willie Nelson on the TV at home right now, and this grocery store visit has already lasted 3 times longer than I wanted it to. I’ve probably already missed ‘Whiskey River’…and that was the only reason I was even watching. So unless you’re wanting to come home with me, where we can enjoy what’s left of Willie’s show in private. Then move your bulk and girth., I really need to get these ice cream sandwiches paid for and skee-daddle before they melt on me. I hate that..”

“Oh, but yeah…I should have known you’d go for the sandwiches. And I would have thought that, had you found me half as attractive as I find you, you would have already asked me to go with you,” her lips moist and red, pouting… “…and I’d go. Yes, indeed I would take your grubby hand and go with you. Baby., you take me away to a world I never knew…what else can I say? I wanna go with you”.

She knew those were her own thoughts. But she hadn’t realized that she had actually spoken them out loud. She caught herself, but it was too late.

She looked away, and he watched her awkwardness. “If that’s how you feel, Terry…” he said, “well consider yourself invited, but I’m warning you…my house is a wreck. Now grab another box of Blue Bell brand ice cream sandwiches and let’s get the fuck out of Dodge.”

“Take the lead, Kimo Sabbi.” …and he led her down a path of murder, sabotage, prostitution and perversion. A shadow land of jealousy, envy, pride…His strange desires held sway, and she knew there was no way back now that she was in so deep. Her years were wasted, tossed away like empty beer bottles thrown through the windows of a speeding cars. He took the lead, alright. He led her straight down his own long and winding road to hell…

…But that’s not what happened…sorry.

Henryk Gorecki: "Symphony No. 3 (Sorrowful Songs)"

I've had this for some while and I give it a spin every so often. Though I've always loved it, I don't think I appreciated it nearly enough until I began listening to it again over the course of the last few days. I haven't stopped playing it since.

Samuel Barber's "Adagio" has, up until now, been my favorite classical work, especially the choral version by the Robert Shaw singers. I tracked that one down on a CD called "Evocation of the Spirit' (highly reccomended). Also on that disc is Gorecki's "Totus Tuus", which is every bit as beautiful as the Adagio.

And so, it was with this background that I procured my copy of his third symphony (the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs"). After spending a considerable (yet highly enjoyable) amount of time with it, I have to confess that it has replaced the Adagio as the single most spell-binding, glorious, intense neo-classical work I have ever heard.

I can't find words to describe it, but this reviewer at Amazon does a pretty good job (I don't normally think too highly of Amazon.com reviewers...I don't think I've ever re-posted one in this blog, but under the circumstances I found this one to be more than adequate):

Gorecki - Spiritual and Emotional, March 31, 2006
By Brett A. Kniess (Madison, Wisconsin)

Written for the 50th anniversary concert of Hitler's invasion of Poland and the ensuing tragedies, Henryk Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 is a powerful, prayer-like setting of memories of those events. While considered a modern composer, the work is firmly rooted in the tonal world, often creating a mantra/meditative feel; the 1976 composition is as emotional today, as it was in its own time.

The subtitle "Sorrowful Songs" is lost a little in the Polish translation, where the sense of "Wordless song", "prayer and exhortation", and "elegiac and redemptive lullaby" are qualities involved in the literal translation. The unique orchestration (4 flutes, 2 piccolos, 4 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 4 trombones, harp, piano, and full string ensemble) give a full, rich, intimate, chamber sound, but the beauty of a solo soprano voice adds to the absolute quality of the instruments. In three movements, each conveys a prayer in a contrasting, yet peaceful manner. Ingeniously, the 26-minute first movement is dominated simply by a canon; based on a folk song, the tune is taken up by the double-basses in low tessitura, and each voice enters at a fifth. It begins rather muddy in the lower voices, but, the gently shifting, repetitious nature, as well as the natural crescendo (achieved by adding instruments and increasing register) comes to a powerful climax, of which the movement ends the opposite by subtracting voices. 13 minutes into the opening movement, the mood changes from the kaleidoscopic motion of shifting strings, to full chords, piano attacks, and a prayer sung by soprano over huge, lush string chords. The effects of the first movement are intriguing and intense, but highly satisfying. The nine-minute second movement's text was found on the wall of Cell No. 3 in "The Palace", a Gestapo's headquarters in Zakopane, written by an 18-year old imprisoned in 1944. Lush minor chords open the movement with a rising motive. Exclamation of "Mama, mama, do not weep" referring personally and religiously, is heartbreaking. Again, thick and lush string ensemble chords dominate the texture, but rather than the ever-moving canon of the opening, long sustained, slowly-shifting chords support the pleas of the soprano soloist; the movement ends unresolved. Equally heart-wrenching is the text of the third movement; a mother who fears her son has died at the hands of the enemy, and is buried in an unknown land, asks God's flowers to cover and protect her son. The soprano melody is simple and seemingly folk-based, but more active and dramatic than the preceding movement; feelings of hopelessness and utter sorrow are sincerely portrayed with the endless shifting string chords, which seem more sounds of unearthly, or ancient chordal movements. The 17-minute final movement and the whole work ends in A major, full of hopefulness and a feeling that all of our prayers have been received with the genuine sincerity in which they have been given.

David Zinman and the London Sinfonietta make this music sparkle, with a deep, velvety sheen. I do not feel that the work is overly sappy, but sincere and passionate performances. The sound is wonderfully resonant and speaks well; the orchestra plays magnificently and is captured well on recording. Dawn Upshaw is outstanding, both bright and luscious, she gives each movement a different mood, making the work a dramatic experience which unfolds, rather than a set of movements. David Zinman adds nothing that Gorecki doesn't ask for, and the composers' natural intent is given on this recording. Gorecki's music is engaging and in this case, broaches toward minimalism, rooted in tonality and modality, the prayer-like music never becomes boring or merely repetitious, but it all ends too soon. 15 years after the Zinman performance and 30 years after its composition, the work has an amazingly powerful statement and immense spirituality. A must-have recording.


My Daughter...at least I think it's her...

The beautiful woman on the left is my daughter...

At least I'm 99% sure it is...

It's like this...I haven't seen my daughter since she was 6 years old. Even those first six years I had very little contact with her. Long story behind that, but I'll spare you.

Oh, and a couple of photographs my dad took of her and my son. That must have been around 1997...10 years ago. So I have a pretty good idea what she might look like now, at 22. I would bet a hefty sum that the woman in this picture is indeed her. She was allowed to visit her grandparents, but not me, but once while she was at their house they decided to bring her to my house for what turned out to be an awkward visit, unplanned as it was. I think she was 12, so I guess I have seen her since she was 6...once...

Last Thursday I found in the local newspaper an obituary for my ex-mother-in-law. That came as a surprise. Of course I hadn't seen her in awhile, either. There, among the list of surviving family, was my daughter's name...and her husband's name.

Oh, I already knew that she had married. But also listed there were the names of two children with the same last name as my daughter...which can only mean one thing...I AM A GRANDFATHER!!!

But it was that "same last name" that was key to what happened next.

I entered her name into a MySpace search (I'd tried it before but I guess I was entering an incorrect last name).

And there she was. It had to be her. She looked just like I envisioned she would. Her stated age was 22. Her skimpy profile said that she lived in "Somewhere, Oklahoma". I say "skimpy" because she has it set to "private", and obviously I don't have her added as a friend. At least not yet.

So, the obvious next step was to send an invitation to join my friends. I gave it a try, but the add page says that she only takes friend requests from people she knows. You had to know either her full name or her e-mail addy. If I wasn't totally sure that this was my daughter, I would have been convinced when I entered her name and the friend request went through.

Of course, there's always the chance that there are two people, both 22 years old and living in Oklahoma, in the entire MySpace network. But I somehow doubt it. This is the real deal, I'm sure of it.

The only thing to do now is wait...

...and I've heard it said that the waiting is the hardest part. I don't think it will be a long one, whether in my favor or not. She was last there on the 27, I didn't send the invite until I saw the profile on the 28th, now it's the 29th and her last log-in is still at 10/27. So it's very likely that she hasn't seen it yet. I look down at my "friends" section, I've got 47 of them...a good number, I'm happy with it. Most all of them are people or bands I know. 47 is okay, but lately I've been checking in every few hours in hopes that I'll see 48.

At which point many prayers will have been answered.


A few self portraits

I took some self portraits earlier this afternoon, so I thought I would share them with my loyal readership...


Eyes still aching...photo art to offer.

I'm currently limiting my computer time to about an hour a day. My throbbing, itchy, aching right eye seems to be getting a little better with the abstinence, and I'm doing some eye exercises that are designed to help eradicate this nasty bit of computer eye strain I'm dealing with here.

So don't give up on me if the posts here are few and far between the next several days.

So here's some more photo art, presented for your consideration and because it takes very little time to publish them. That's what it's all about.




Kip Klinger reviews Radiohead's "In Rainbows"

...from Kip's Movie & Music Reviews...

Everybody likes Radiohead, right? Michael Stipe (of REM fame and one bald motherfucker to boot) once said that if his band was as good as Radiohead they would have broken up after their 3rd album. Which, of course, only makes us wish that they WERE as good as Radiohead.

Then again, had they called it quits at that point in their career they would no doubt be remembered as being every bit as good as Radiohead is, and better. Alas, they went on to release "Up".

Noone can do what Radiohead seems to pull off effortlessly. Some have tried with a modicum of success (Coldplay). Others have failed miserably (about 2/3 of every whiny indie band who came on the scene since the release of "OK Computer"). The ones who got lucky, conjuring up the spirit of the band without sounding like copycats, have made some very enjoyable music. The failures, who definately are in the majority here, make you wish Radiohead had never gotten a record deal.

Which is a testament to how great "OK Computer" really was...am instant classic. Hipsters balked at Rolling Stone magazines comparison of the album to Pink Floyd's masterpiece "Dark Side of the Moon". Personally I don't see it. I hear much more Allman Brothers influence. Songs like "Subterranean Homesick Alien" and "Airbag" make me think of "Eat a Peach" every single time. The Floyd connection is understandable, but I hear more Gregg Allman than Roger Waters on that album.

Now, three frenzetic albums later, Yorke and Co. return with the much-anticipated "In Rainbows". With it's release the band can once again claim the level of greatness that Michael Stipe was so jealous of. It looks as if they are destined for immortality with this record, which may be their best work since "The Bends".

"In Rainbows" kicks off with "Black Dog", a lumbering, sweaty, sex-charged number that features the mammoth drum stylings of Phil Selway. His technique can only legitimately be compared to the early work of Phil Collins, as evidenced by the incredible flourishes that introduce the next track, "Rock and Roll". Rarely has Thom Yorke's voice conveyed the sheer bliss that comes with true rockin' as he does here. The last time he came this close was on "Fake Plastic Trees".

Shifting gears radically, Jonny Greenwood picks up an acoustic guitar as Yorke spins a Tolkien influenced yarn, "The Battle of Evermore". The spooky atmosphere is only heightened by the vocal stylings of Judy Collins, who is the perfect duet partner for this kind of "Lord of the Rings" flavored nonsense.

Once again shifting gears, Greenwood retains the acoustic guitar and gingerly opens the album's centerpiece, "Stairway to Heaven". Cryptic lyrics match perfectly with the serene music wafting in and out of the first half of the song. Then, straight out of nowhere, Ed O'brien's processed electric guitar shatters the tranquility and leads the song into territory previously uncharted by Radiohead, an almost pre-metal cacaphony. Fine solos by Greenwood and O'Brien abound. Yorke delivers one of the best lyrics he's ever written, "To be a rock and not to roll". Classic! All the naysayers who slagged "Kid A" and "Amnesiac" will surely celebrate the band's return to guitar based music.

"Misty Mountain Hop" (yet another Tolkien reference...these guys must have a lot of time on their hands) and "Four Sticks" open the second half of "In Rainbows". Both are fine songs, but they lose a bit of momentum in following "Stairway to Heaven". It must be noted, however, that Selway once again kicks ass on "Four Sticks". There are several times in this song where he manages to conjure the spirit of John Bonham.

Thom Yorke sounds more relaxed than he ever has on "Going to California", in which he laments the cruelty of a woman unkind who smoked his stuff and drank all his wine. This is as laid back as I've ever heard him. Maybe TOO laid back. At times he sounds like he's fighting an unsuccesful battle with rapidly approaching sleep. But it works, much in the same way that "Everything In It's Right Place" was the perfect opener for "Kid A". This time Colin Greenwood gets to lay down the bass and show you what he can do with a Martin acoustic. He is a fine player, and his style is remakably different than his brother Jonny's more intricate picking (just compare this one with "The Battle of Evermore"...you'll see what I mean...and if you don't, well my friend, you've got a tin ear).

"In Rainbows" concludes with the thunderous behemoth "When the Levee Breaks". Radiohead have never been a band to flirt with Mississippi delta blues, but they have succeeded here in merging Son House with Iron Butterfly. John Popper (of Blues Traveler fame) sits in and lays down a blistering harmonica track that is as far removed from his usual over-played fare as this album is from "Pablo Honey" (Radiohead's 3rd...many say it's their best). A crazy good song that will make you want to push the "repeat" button before you listen to the rest of the album again and again and again and again and again and again and again...because THAT'S what Radiohead fans do.

All in all, "In Rainbows" is a very satisfying outing from a band whose 9 albums have covered the spectrum from grunge that would have made the late great Cobain proud to a jazz fusion sensibility culled from months of listening to Pat Metheny records. Oh, they've had their rough times---who can forget their tribute to Pete Seeger or the "all-covers" project that ingeniously reconstructed chestnuts from influences like Giorgio Moroder, Hanoi Rocks, Bob Wills & Hoobastank---but all in all this band has delivered the goods more times than the Pizza Hut guy on April 20th.

"In Rainbows" will go down in the rock history books as one of the greatest albums of all time. It would not surprise me if Rolling Stone had the gall to compare it to "Led Zeppelin IV". If they do, the Radioheads of the world will have a good reason to boycott that silly magazine. If you're going to compare it to anything, at least be realistic...the album sounds more like "Appetite for Destruction" than anything else.

5 out of 5 stars

My Music Playlist, as of 10/15/07

That music you hear when you find your way to this page is from a website called Project Playlist: Social Music Experiment. It's a nifty place where you can put together your own songlist of up to 75 tracks. Big fun for anyone with a blog or a MySpace page (or whatever social networking site you use, I suppose).

Anyway, mine gets updated every few months or so, and for posterity's sake I've decided to post my current list here. One o' these days the player will be completely different and maybe I'll see this post while archive searching and it will bring back pleasurable memories.

And I gotta say...this is one cool fuckin' list...

~~~"Untitled 2 & 3"...Sigur Ros
~~~"Untitled 8"...Sigur Ros
~~~ "Njosnavelin"...Sigur Ros
~~~"Saeglopur"...Sigur Ros
~~~"Hoppipolla"...Sigur Ros
~~~"Glenn Tipton"...Sun Kil Moon
~~~"Ocean Breathes Salty"...Sun Kil Moon
~~~"Carry Me Ohio (Alternate Version)"...Sun Kil Moon
~~~"Grace Cathedral Park"...Red House Painters
~~~"Road"...Nick Drake
~~~"Place To Be"...Nick Drake
~~~"Ghost Rider"...Suicide
~~~"Atmosphere"...Joy Division
~~~"Iceblink Luck"...Cocteau Twins
~~~"Carolyn's Fingers"...Cocteau Twins
~~~"Avenging Annie"...Andy Pratt
~~~"Alone Again Or"...the Damned
~~~"Moisture"...the Residents
~~~"Hello Skinny"...the Residents
~~~"Picnic Boy"...the Residents
~~~"Then At Iona Lanthem"...Renaldo & the Loaf
~~~"Nick Cave Dolls"...Bongwater
~~~"What Kind of Man Reads 'Playboy'?"...Bongwater
~~~"To Sirius"...Gojira
~~~"Everytime You Go Away"...Paul Young
~~~"Country Feedback"...REM
~~~"Valentine's Day"...Bruce Springsteen
~~~"Monkberry Moon Delight"...Paul McCartney
~~~"She is Mine"...Psychedelic Furs
~~~"Dumb Waiters"...Psychedelic Furs
~~~"Into You Like a Train"...Psychedelic Furs
~~~"Saturn Drive"... Alan Vega
~~~"Dissolution"...Ozric Tentacles
~~~"Celebrated Summer"...Husker Du
~~~"I Apologize"...Husker Du
~~~"Assimilate"...Skinny Puppy
~~~"Dig It"...Skinny Puppy
~~~"April the 14th (Part 1)"...Gillian Welch
~~~"Spitting Sky"...Throbbing Gristle
~~~"Branded and Soldered"... Throbbing Gristle
~~~"Sensoria"... Cabaret Voltaire
~~~"The Mercy Seat"...Johnny Cash
~~~"Descending"...Lamb of God
~~~"Love Me If You Can"...Toby Keith
~~~"Let Down"...Radiohead
~~~"Apparitions"...Matthew Good Band
~~~"Wake Up In New York"...Craig Armstrong w/Evan Dando
~~~"Holocaust"...Big Star
~~~"I'm In Love With a Girl"...Big Star
~~~"Hit the North"...the Fall
~~~"rockets fall on Rockets Falls"...Godspeed You! Black Emperor
~~~"Silver Rocket"...Sonic Youth
~~~"Dirty Boots"...Sonic Youth
~~~"Teen Age Riot"...Sonic Youth
~~~"Theme from 'The Dukes of Hazzard'"...Waylon Jennings
~~~"Theme from 'M*A*S*H'"...Johnny Mandel
~~~"46 and 2"...Tool
~~~"Needles in the Camel's Eye"...Brian Eno
~~~"Regiment"...Brian Eno & David Byrne
~~~Symphony No. 3, 2nd movement...Henryk Gorecki
~~~"Family Snapshot"...Peter Gabriel
~~~"Alone"...the Bee Gees
~~~"What's He Building In There?"...Tom Waits
~~~"By Your Side"...Sade
~~~"Taillights Fade"...Buffalo Tom
~~~"Sweet Thing"...Van Morrison
~~~"It's Only Make Believe"...Conway Twitty
~~~"Legalize It"...Peter Tosh
~~~"You Can Close Your Eyes (Live)...James Taylor
~~~"Fell In Love At 22"...Starflyer 59


Psychedelic Furs: "World Outside"

It would have been a real shame had the Psychedelic Furs ended their career with the bland, listless "Book of Days", a record that sounded like an unsuccesful attempt to conjure the glory days, replete with swirling guitars, cryptic lyrics and sleepy-eyed yet rough-edged vocals. But the guitars were just too smooth, the lyrics too banal and the vocals turned up too high in the mix. It's not a "terrible" record, but Furs fans deserve better, IMO.

Luckily, the band went on to record one more album, "World Outside", that sees them leaving the arena on a high note.

"World Outside" has little in common with it's predecessor. "Book" was shrouded in an ominous gloom, with producer Dave Allan apparently shooting for a minimalist approach. Not a whole lot of sonic variety to be found there. In contrast, Stephen Street's work on "World Outside" is interesting and engaging, best experienced through headphones (and I can't remember any other Furs release that sounded this good through phones). The album has a sound that is remarkably different than all that came before it.

Which is just as well, as the band seems to be in the process of enlarging their musical pallete. With the exception of Richard Butler's vocals (which sound very good here) there seems to be very little of the trademark Psychedelic Furs style here. It's ironic that the slight change in direction comes at the tail end of the band's career. And it's sad, because for the most part, the thing WORKS.

Stand out track here on "World Outside" is the song that was (wisely) released as the first single, "Until She Comes". A nice, dreamy feel with a wonderful, understated performance by Butler. Indeed, Richard Butler's style and sound seem to be all that's left of what the band has ever been. No doubt this has much to do with Street's production, which, at times, tweaks the music to the point where it's remeniscent of The Smiths (or maybe Morrissey's early material, sans Marrs, which he did produce). Yet, somehow Butler pulls it off and you never think of "World Outside" as his first solo record, which it might as well have been.

Unfortunately the high quality of the songs here seem to wane about halfway through. The album could have benfited from better sequencing, but then some of the less stellar tracks might have bogged down the whole affair. Furthermore (and this is a minor quibble) many of the songs end with fade-outs that seem to come too early. It's as if the second chorus ends so Street decides it's over, no more to be done with it, and he pulls it down much too quickly. In doing so he spoils any hope for some sort of atmosphere that could have served the record well.

It is true that I only listened to "World Outside" a couple of times when I got it several years ago. Usually when that happens, it means I wasn't too impressed. This time, however, I don't know why I didn't give it more attention. It certainly is worthy of it, at least the first 5 or 6 songs are.

Maybe the whole point of "Book of Days" was to try and please the fans who wanted the Psychedelic Furs to sound like the Psychedelic Furs, or at least their perception of what that sound was. In trying to do that, the group failed. Who knows but that they realized that this approach was no longer working for them. At any rate, the direction they took on "World Outside" turned out to be much more entertaining, even if it did sacrifice some of what you'd come to expect.

And it makes you wish they hadn't called it a day.


Psychedelic Furs: "Book of Days"

Checked out the AMG review of this album before coming here, and I really can't disagree with it more.

AMG seems to think that producer Dave Allen (The Cure, The Chameleons UK) was good for the band. Not to my ears, he's not. He's filed down so many rough edges that the band's punk influence, so evident in their early years, has practically vanished. This is a significant error...After listening to "Book of Days" I realized that this smoothing down process, which began with "Mirror Moves", is very likely instrumental in the transformation of a great post-punk band into a mediocre one.

Here's the key: Richard Butler is a great vocalist. I've always believed this. His style is akin to a cross between David Bowie and Johnny Rotten. He has a laid back delivery that conjures a jaded aloofness. But he has his limitations, and one of them is that he sounds much better when surrounded by loud, swirling guitars and thundering drums. In other words, that punk influence is essential (with exceptions granted..."Am I Wrong" with Love Spit Love" is quite good).

The swirling guitars are on display throughout "Book of Days", but they're buried just a tad too low in the mix. Butler's singing is pulled up front and center, and that's too bad, because it always sounded better deep in the chaos. Though Vince Ely makes his return to the band, the drum tracks are no big deal. Nothing a studio musician couldn't lay down for union scale.

Butler's lyrics sound contrived, as well. It's as if someone told him he had to write something in the style of early Psychedelic Furs. He probably doesn't want to, I'd guess, he probably has some new ideas. Yet, the same someone who wanted the old style lyrics is adament to the point where eventually Butler caves in and tries to conjure the classic original stuff.

But it doesn't work. The lyrics throughout the album don't seem to have any point other than to conjure a memory of what used to be. Furthermore, it's as if they have a stock melodic line and they want to get their money's worth out of it. Not a lot of melodic variety throughout the 10 songs on the record.

One thing that AMG says that I DO agree with...there is one classic Psychedelic Furs song on "Book of Days". "House" succeeds in binging back the spirit of their debut album and "Talk Talk Talk". The first time I heard "House" it was on some free compilation CD like you get with CMJ New Music Monthly or Uncut. I thought, at the time, that it was very possible that the Furs were on their way to a comeback. Just a fuckin' classic song in every way.

Unfortunately it was not to be. I haven't listened to "World Outside", the subsequent album, in a long time, so I wouldn't want to say that it was the final nail in their coffin, the last gasp, the hopes for a comeback dashed upon the rocks of mediocrity. But the fact that I only listened to it once or twice after I got it does not bode well.

The customer reviews for "Book of Days" at Amazon.com are uniformly positive, with titles like "A return to greater things", "Too good for the masses, obviously", "a criminally overlooked album" and "the best furs/the bleakest furs". The album recieves an over-all rating of 4 & 1/2 stars. Not that I've ever trusted these reviews, but then again, maybe I'm wrong about this one. Maybe it's a very good album that I'm just not connecting with. I won't rule out that possibilty...in fact, I kinda hope it's the case, because the Psychedelic Furs were one of the hands-down best acts of the early 80's and they deserve the chance to go out with the respect of their long term fans.

Still, as a long term fan myself, I'd hoped that "Book of Days" would be a great album. In my own humble opinion, it it not.


I know, I know... I keep saying I'm going to take a break. I promise you I will...might even avoid the computer altogether this weekend.

But I couldn't resist posting my unsolicited opinion on the Psychedelic Furs' album "Book of Days".


A few examples of my photo art for you, then I take another optically therapeutic break.

I'm taking another short break...I couldn't resist getting back online too soon after my last sabbatical. The whole point is to give my eyes a rest from the evil and deadly cathode rays that emit from my monitor screen.

So check back in a few days, and in the meantime here are 4 more examples of my recent photo art for your consideration, contemplation and/or condemnation.

You can always let me know what you think...there's nifty feature on these blogs called "Comments". Sometimes I forget about it, because I rarely recieve any. But I'm not whining about it.

At least, not too much.

See you soon.

Self-Portrait of the Artist Holding an 8-BallLiterature of the Western World
Self-Portrait of the Artist as a Dead Man
Self-Portrait of the Artist with a Figurine Resembling George Harrison Clasped Between His Teeth


William Ackerman: "In Search of the Turtle's Navel" & "Imaginary Roads"

If you love beautiful, intricate acoustic guitar music you really must own these albums by William Ackerman ("Passage" and "Past Light" are essential, too). If you haven't heard of him by all means go to the record store right now or log in to your Amazon account and get these right now (all 4 of 'em').

Ackerman is the man who discovered Michael Hedges (the two played together in concert before Hedge's death). His guitar style is more understated than Hedges. On the surface his music sounds pleasant enough...in fact, quite beautiful. But the closer you listen the more you notice the complexity of the various melodic lines that weave in and out of the songs.

Will Ackerman is also the man who founded the Windham Hill record label, so he had a lot to do with the genesis of the "new age" genre. From interviews I've read, he has never liked the term. It is true that for every really good new age album released there were at least 2 duds to dilute the genre in it's wake. The Windham Hill label, though, is for the most part, the apex of this kind of music. Artists like George Winston, Michael Hedges, Alex De Grassi and Ackerman himself are undisputed masters of their craft. Even if you hate "new age" there's still a very good possibility that you could enjoy these artists.

For a sample of his magic, download "The Bricklayer's Beautiful Daughter", "The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit", "Processional" or "The Moment In Which You Must Finally Let Go of the Tether Which Has Held Your Hope Airborne". If you like any of these songs you might as well pick up his entire catalogue. It is consistanly excellent, the kind of stuff that makes for beautiful aural wallpaper as well as music which demands concentration.

If you DO decide to buy one of his albums as a starting poiint, let it be "Passage". The 8 songs on that album are, in my opinion, the very best he has ever recorded.


Bee Gees: "One"

I'm no Bee Gees hater...in fact, I really appreciate much of their music. From the early stuff ("Man For All Seasons", "How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?") to their successful mid-period ("Too Much Heaven", "Love So Right") and even some of the more recent songs (especially "Alone"), they have been, if not consistant, at least a sporadically excellent mainstream pop outfit. It's hard to doubt that there was a certain kind of magic that filled the recording studio when the brothers Gibb congregated to make a record. It may have been a hit-or-miss kind of thing, but when it hit, it really hit big.

And when it missed you got albums like "One".

"One" is, by Bee Gees standards, a terribly bland affair. The production sounds half-finished, the fidelity of the recording lacks the "sheen" that is one of the group's strengths. The songwriting is average at best. Only the vocals are worthy of attention. The Gibb's greatest asset may well be the merging of those three distinct voices, which they had been honing for over 35 years when this album was released.

Still, even the best singers have a hard time working with crap songs. The great ones have the ability to save such a dismal song by their vocal work alone. Not to say that Barry, Robin and Maurice aren't capable of performing this feat. They sure can't seem to do it on "One". The vocals are, indeed, the best thing here, but that's not saying much. They still pale in comparison to what they've proved themselves capable of.

I don't even want to discuss individual tracks here, because frankly I can't remember a single one, not even the titles. I am not going to sit through it again, at least not in the foreseeable future. I will say this...There may be a great song tucked into the sequence of the last three or three & a half songs. I wouldn't know...I fell asleep around that time.

If you're in the mood for late-90's period Bee Gees music, take my advice: avoid "One" and check out their 1997 album "Still Waters". From the first track on that album, "Alone", you will see that they still have what it takes to make an excellent album. They may never have a repeat of the success they enjoyed in the seventies, but they still knock out some fine music every once in awhile.