The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #25

[Just a reminder, this is the general title for posts where I want to do a quick plug of an oldie (or several) that’s too little-known, according to me.]

Bela Bartok, The 6 String Quartets (Lindsay String Quartet) (ASV, 1981)

This requires a shout-out to my long-gone half sister, Betty Jane, who, when she heard I was becoming captivated by music, said something like: “Pay attention to Bartok — my favorite — he’s not like anybody else.” And that his intelligence radiated from everything he wrote.

I’m not music-tech illiterate, but as close as I can be to get by (stopped taking lessons in grade school when an ignoramus told me I couldn’t play if I couldn’t read scores) so all I can say is that every moment of these three discs runs a marvelous abstract movie in my mind that’s different each time through. (Yeah, it’s not in chronological order and I wouldn’t have any other sequence than this one.) I had not played it for a long, long time because (I was reminded a couple months ago) this weird glitch had developed about two minutes into the Second Movement of Quartet No. 1, one of my most beloved passages in the whole thing. I cleaned the disc but it still wouldn’t play right. I understood I better hurry up and replace the OOP set if I didn’t want to shell out a fortune. So I did and every morning this week has featured supernatural sunshine as a result.

R.I.P.: Russ Solomon

The founder of Tower Records. The sad part is that if he had not overextended, the company might not have had such a nosedive finish.

The happy part is that Tower Records taught me how excellent a huge record/music store could be. The Mass. Ave./Newbury St. intersection that included both a three-floor Tower and the lynch pin store of Newbury Comics were my happiest hunting grounds since I discovered Cheapo back before the Earth’s crust cooled. The “World Music” section of the San Francisco store was Heaven incarnated in a forest of racks. I still recall flipping through vinyl and jewel cases for hours with a simmering, dreamy excitement.

{EDIT}

PS: I should add that the first time I went into the Tower in Berkeley (I think it was) there was an angry demonstration-line in front of it decrying “corporate music stores.” So I thought, well probably gonna be a Top 40 hellhole. No way. I recall I saw Rock of Ages by The Band, bright and early after release, and snatched it up and have loved it ever since. You protesters are full of the residue from vinyl that they used to dump in rivers.

Get Off To a Heavy Start

I’ve been playing the collection I’m a Freak Baby … on and off this week and am now certain that all the selections of the bands I knew beforehand are outstanding cuts. But I would push this most as a starter set for the curious youngster. Hear something that blows your brain out the window — explore some more (you’re not in my running pack if you can resist “Do It” by the Pink Fairies). A surprise throwback to the days of meticulous anthology boxes. (And I’m going to check out the debut album by Stray (S/T), which I gather is their consensus masterpiece and certainly kicks off the program with a wowser.)

R.I.P.: Fred Cole

Lifelong incarnation of “indie spirit rock and roll.” I discovered him and Toody when they were playing a Pierced Arrows album at Rockin’ Rudy’s in Missoula and I asked “who in the hell is this dandy item?” It was some early version of Straight To the Heart that doesn’t look like the one you can get now. Loved it, but sat around in ignorance until I read this definitive presentation by Bob Xgau. The double-CD is clearly where to begin, but I wanna snatch up anything I can find by Fred and Toody.

Day of the Doddering Dodo

This morning I think, “Hell’s smells, the last print issue of the Village Voice will hit town today, so why don’t I cruise over to Harvard Square — and specifically Out of Town News — where I grabbed acres of publications when I first moved here — and pick up a copy if any are left.”

So I get there and look around and no nuthin’ nowhere. Adding to my flightless and   clueless condition I ask: “Has the Village Voice sold out already?” Manager looks at me like I’m wearing paisley shorts with hair down to my butt and says “We haven’t got the Voice for four or five years!” “Well, the last print edition was yesterday.” “Ended for us a long time ago.”

So I go to the still-prime Newbury Comics and buy a couple CDs.

I attend an excellent free class on digital marketing of your brand. I am informed that Twitter analytics exists, which is serious news to me. Now I can see what’s going on over there a lot more. Might help me ask question to improve blog traffic,even.

 

 

 

R.I.P.: Walter Becker/Steely Dan

Steeky

Becker and Fagen would be first to say Steely Dan were a rock and roll future that never came to pass. The saddest aspect of their shortfall is that the more you had listened to, the more you appreciated what Steely Dan was on about. One of my greatest frustrations as a popular music critic is that I’m not happy with anything I wrote about the Dan. The only outright botch was my misguided rave for Fagen’s Kamakiriad (though it does still have its believers). And I did get it more or less right that Two Against Nature was quite an accomplishment after such a hiatus and was artistic justice. But probably the best I ever did for the band was during my first record-store job in Boston, where I convinced the owners that Aja was not just for hipsters but would be a hit and sure as hell would be more fun to play than the millionth repetition of Saturday Night Fever or (shudder) Dark Side of the Moon.

Anyway, I think this is as good as possible to do with Steely Dan and that, yeah, it does help to be from NY.