Songs,Style Icons: Male »Richie Havens, Here Comes the Sun, Wonder Child

rhRIP

Folk icon Richie Havens is remembered not only for his long career in folk music and particularly his break out performance at Woodstock but for being a genuinely kindhearted man. He devoted his time to educating children about the environment and never let fame get in the way of his life and his music.

It’s difficult to choose a favorite song from such an impressive list but I’d recommend a listen to his fantastic version of Here Comes the Sun, one of his biggest hits, and his touching cover of Wonder Child, a lesser known song originally performed by Helen Reddy on Sesame Street (it might bring you close to tears if you have little kids though!)

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Posted on April 30, 2013

Albums »All Our Own Work

allourby Sandy Denny and The Strawbs (1967, 1973)

All Our Own Work is an album for those quiet days when the sun is streaming through the window and you have time to stop, breathe, and listen to the world. It’s a folk gem and features one of my favorites songs ever, “I’ve Been My Own Worst Friend” as well as the heartbreaking classic “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”. Sandy Denny, she of the most extraordinary voice, is amazing here but even songs without her are beautiful.

The album was recorded when The Strawbs were fledgling and unable to secure a record deal. Denny famously went on to Fairport Convention and The Strawbs found success with various genres. The tracks were forgotten until released a decade later. Later still, a reissue included more unreleased demos and outtakes.

strawbs

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Posted on April 24, 2013

Movies »Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

directed by Thomas Alfredson (2011)

I sincerely wish I had the wherewithal, mind space and time to write the intelligent, thoughtful essay the newest adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy deserves … But as I spend most of my days singing The Hot Dog Song to entertain my son, making jam sandwiches and whistling through multiple dirty diaper changes, I do not.

I can say that despite my most sincere misgivings about them even thinking of remaking the original (which is phenomenal and boasts a performance by Alec Guinness that frankly out does Gary Oldman) I was floored by this smart production.

Not only is the writing and direction sharp, the cast is perfection (and includes the thinking woman’s ideal host of hunks including Colin Firth and Tom Hardy) and the art direction is truly impeccable. It takes a certain skill for a film to transport us to a place and time, in this case 1970′s London, without it playing false or costumey.

Make sure you have time to devote to watching carefully, its a complex movie but worth it. The best film I’ve seen in a long time.

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Posted on December 27, 2012

Movies »Smile

 directed by Michael Ritchie (1975)

I’d hate to spend this whole review comparing the small town pageant comedy Smile to the best of Robert Altman, which it so clearly drew inspiration from, so I’ll just say this: while it has the flavor of the fly on the wall film making which makes films like Nashville and Short Cuts among my most favorite, it does fall short.

Still it boasts a great cast, that no only includes Violet Beauregard (from Willie Wonka!), a young topless Melanie Griffith and Annette O’Toole and Kate Sarchet as extremely natural and likable contestants in the Young Miss pageant. You’ve also got Bruce Dern!

“Dernsie”, as we fans like to call him at first seems to be playing to type as a sleazy car salesman but he bucks his creepy type casting to play a decidedly optimistic man who fails to see anything negative (even if it hits him in the face) and lives for the joy of the annual pageant he judges.
Smile is often funny – the unusual “talents” like packing a suit case and thinly veiled stripping stand out, but it turns dark with the subplot of the town drunk and plays with themes of suburban ennui, adolescence, and the American Dream – like a good old American novel from the era.
It’s available to watch on Netflix and might just be worth a viewing for all the period maxi dresses and feathered hair.

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Posted on August 13, 2012

Songs »Gold

by John Stewart (1979)

Let’s face it, I’ll take to just about anything that features the warbling of Stevie Nicks.

But Gold by John Stewart would be awesome even without her.

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Posted on June 18, 2012

Songs,Style Icons: Male »Jive Talkin, Robin Gibb

RIP

Disco is really taking a hit. Robin Gibb of the awesomely smooth Bee Gees recently passed away on the heels of disco great Donna Summer.

In tribute I suggest listening to Jive Talkin‘ at least several times. You’ll feel good and feeling good is what The Bee Gees were all about. A pretty great legacy to leave behind: smiling, dancing fans.

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Posted on May 24, 2012

Albums »Outlandos d’Amour

by The Police (1978)

I guess I’ve never been a die hard Police fan. I like them, but realized I don’t know their albums too well (is all my information from the radio and best of collections? For shame!).

I was please to find out that two of my favorites by them “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “So Lonely” are both on their debut album Outlandos d’Amour.

Jim, who’s a much bigger fan than I, has filled me in on their back catalogue and also has his favorite: “Masoko Tanga” while the great radio hit “Roxanne” also makes an appearance.

But the rest is not just filler, aside from an odd poem thing in the middle it’s prefect sunny weather post punk through and through.

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Posted on May 20, 2012

Albums »Autobahn

by Kraftwerk (1974)

Like practically every art school nerd type person in New York City, I failed to acquire Kraftwerk tickets but not for lack of trying.

Though I’ve seen images and heard tell of the performances I still prefer to sulk a little with Autobahn – an album I would describe as a soothing video game journey of sound.

Ah! I feel soothed already just listening to a few times.

The word “soundscape” in relation to music doesn’t always conjure up wonderful images to me. I usually see boring performances by friend’s boyfriends one might be guilted into seeing – but here it means great things.

It’s a shimmering, sunny day album that takes you to glossy imaginary landscapes.

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Posted on April 20, 2012

Movies »Alien and Aliens

directed by Ridley Scott (1979) and James Cameron (1986)

When three adult, seemingly intelligent Jeopardy! contestants couldn’t name Alien as the film starring Ian Holm as an android I was appalled!

So, even though Alien and Aliens were set to make an appearance on my “Top Best Movies You’ve Probably Seen But If You Haven’t You Better Get On It Marathon”, now it seems urgent to tell you to watch them straight away.

The first is cerebral, terrifying and ground breaking. The second defied the odds and became the best of block buster action science fiction (featuring the amazing line “Game over, Man!”) despite a new, different minded director. Together, they are simply the best films ever made in their genre, in fact – they define the genre.

I am cautiously excited about the prequel Prometheus because it’s also by Alien director Ridley Scott. Maybe it will succeed is capturing the brilliance of the series in a way that parts 3 and 4 have not.

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Posted on April 10, 2012

Albums »Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Soundtrack

by Stu Phillips etc (1970)

It’s hard to make an album as off the wall brilliant/bad as the movie Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but in its own way the soubdtrack is pretty fabulous.

I sought it out one morning when I was craving a 60′s counter culture girl band sound, that insanely enough, I only found (without extensive searching) in the satisfying throaty sexiness of the fake in-movie band The Carrie Nations.

Songs like of “Look On Up At the Bottom”, “Come With the Gentle People”, “Sweet Talking Candyman” will make you want to shake your mini skirt hips on gogo boots. And not ironically either.

Much of the music’s success comes from writer Stu Phillips and the amazing vocals of one Lynn Carey who, after a brief google search I’ve learned was a penthouse model and hippie/sexy lead singer of a band called Mama Lion. I’m intrigued.

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Posted on March 21, 2012

Songs »Night of the Vampire

by Roky Erickson (1979)

I have the feeling that I am just scratching the surface of the work of cult icon Roky Erickson with this catchy tune.

Night of the Vampire will not only add a much needed shaking up to your normal Halloween party mix, but probably give you some pretty cool street cred as well (depending on the street).

Erickson’s life has been rife with tragedy (and the subject of a pretty depressing documentary called You’re Gonna Miss Me).

This song is fun, lumbering, campy, and though it was originally recorded in 1979, feels like the rocking-est parts of the very early 1990′s.

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Posted on October 29, 2011

Songs »Fooled Around and Fell in Love

By Elvin Bishop (1975)

It’s Elvin Bishop’s birthday. Must play Fooled Around and Fell in Love at least three times.

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Posted on October 21, 2011

Albums »Wicked Witch: Chaos 1978-86

by Wicked Witch (1978-86)

Hands down Chaos 1978-86 is the weirdest album I’ve discovered.

You know how they can record your thoughts as those grainy distorted images? This is kind of the music version of that. So lo fi it feels like it’s inside this awesome basement musicians own mind and his mind is filled with spooky sounds, avant-garde takes on cop movie soundtracks and strange interpretations of Parliament and Rick James.

I feel like this oddity will only grow on me more and more as it seems to offer new sensations every time we listen to it. So I was almost hesitant to write about it until it had totally washed over me, but it’s really too cool, bizarre, and unique to keep a secret from you all any longer.

I really want to thank the blog Music to Flip You Around for introducing this to me (during a random image search). You can get a down-loadable zip of the album from them too.

We have a new creative hero in our house, and his name is Wicked Witch.

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Posted on October 9, 2011

Books »The Forever War

by Joe Halderman (1974)

Soon The Forever War is going to be the book you see everyone reading on the subway. Why? Because Ridley Scott is working on a big screen adaptation that has the potential to be the next masterpiece science fiction cinema. That is, if he manages to capture the brilliance of the novel.

After reading Song of Fire and Ice, John Haldeman’s economy of language is a refreshing surprise. The wry tone, smirking through heart break, violence and depression calls to mind Catch-22 and the inventive vision of the future makes one think of Starship Troopers and A Clockwork Orange. All good things, but Halderman’s work is truly unique and it’s influence incalculable.

Forever War is a seminal piece in Science fiction literature but sadly not one that has crossed over to mainstream readers. I had heard the name but didn’t pick it up until a Facebook mention reminded me of it and I was on a quest for a new book to read. Most everyone I’ve talked to has never heard of it, but like I said, that’s sure to change soon.

I don’t want to give too much plot away but it concerns a war that carries on with a species humans know nothing about for thousands of years. Much of the plot revolves around understanding theoretical technical aspects, a sci-fi trope that can turn me off, but here he somehow makes it very understandable ( just don’t read it when super tired).

It’s not a flaw exactly but could be a hurdle for some ( including filmmakers, so curious to see how its all handled) Even so, the action, the imagination, and the humanity of the broken soldier Mandella we witness the war through will entrance any reader.

Truly a masterpiece. Lovers of sci-fi, got on this! Or make fun of me for not knowing about it til now, your pick.

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Posted on September 26, 2011

Books »The Face That Must Die

by Ramsey Campbell (1979)

Ramsey Campbell’s John Horridge is one of the most believable psychopaths I’ve read. His extreme homophobia and irrational paranoia make it a disconcerting, but interesting read, as most of The Face That Must Die takes us into his inner thoughts and ravings.

It’s little wonder that Campbell based the character on someone with schizophrenia that he knew well, his own mother. The perspective is eerie and realistic.

The other characters: drug abusing boyfriends, artists, and struggling young women and the settings, like a depressing housing estate, are equally vivid in the hands of Campbell, who is highly regarded in the horror genre (this is the first I’ve read by him).

The strange photo real montage illustrations by JK Potter, however, do not really reflect the mood and descriptions in the book, which takes place in the 1970′s in Liverpool. They will however raise the eyebrows of anyone looking over your shoulder at what you are reading.

I’d be curious to read more from Campbell, as this is a unique, unnerving take on the oft repeated serial killer novel.

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Posted on July 15, 2011

Web Sites »Star1973

A Magazine for Groupies

Oh yes!!

If you remember, eons ago I discovered a little gem called Star Magazine – a publication devoted entirely to the art of being a groupie. The site I marked then is now all gone, but in it’s place has emerged Star1973, an amazing site where you can find all five editions scanned front to back (!!)

I am dying with excitement.

Ryan Richardson gets major props for sharing this with the world (and for all that scanning – if I only had half the time and patience for my own vintage mag collection…).

I can’t wait to really spend some time with this one – I mean, come on, just look at the article below. The Girl Who Fights Over Guys – Will You Be Ready To Face Her?.

It just so deliciously brazen and upfront about it’s goal – to help you, the young groupie, bed rock stars (even if you have to bust some heads to get into Alice Cooper’s bed).

And the fashions! Girls and boys alike would be dropping over dead in the streets if these ladies were to strut down Bedford Avenue today.

Thanks to Sarafina and Will of The Stencil for alerting me to this fab site.

 

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Posted on May 26, 2011

Albums »Soundway Records Presents Cartagena! Curro Fuentes & The Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound of Colombia 1962-72

Various Artist (1962-1972)

If you were to play Cartagena! Curro Fuentes and the Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound of Colombia album outside your window on a rainy, dark afternoon, the sun would come out and people in the streets would be compelled to start dancing.

Definitely on the short list of the greatest things I have recommended this year, this compilation is joyous, unusual, and all around awesome.

I have been a huge cumbia fan since I was in Jr High, when I used to listen to an album called Cumbia Cumbia Dos. It was never easy finding an equally interesting compilation of the Colombian genre – that was influenced by Africa and Spain.

Soundway Records, described as “a UK-based label, dedicated to re-releasing lost and forgotten recordings from the world’s most vibrant musical cultures” has found some absolute gems. I found them on emusic, which is a great site for discovering the obscure, particularly (non-lame) world music.

Every track is excellent, you could easily put this one on a loop for any margarita filled party and not worry about things slowing down.

Soundway has a slew of other releases I look forward to hearing including Afro-Psychedelia and the sounds of Siam. If small indie labels finding old, out of print amazing music is a new trend (see the fantastic Numero Group and their soul catalog), then I am one happy lady.

Below are images of the original albums of some of the artists included.

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Posted on May 26, 2011