“Beautiful, Bountiful Minnesota” by John A. Castor of Crookston, Minnesota. A one-sided acetate; the singer is not identified.
It’s been several years since Jake Manders released his self-titled album, which quickly became a favorite around here for its rootsy melodies and colloquial themes — each song seems to have a story behind it, but Manders is the sort of storyteller who leaves some details out to tempt your imagination. And that’s what kept us listening.
Just last summer we posted that we’ve been waiting too long for another, and it turns out he was recording his second album up in Northeast with Paul Flynn (the awesome engineer who has been doing some great work at The Space with some of our favorite local groups). Now ready to be released this Friday, Manders’ Acoustic Frequency is similar to his first album but the songs feel fuller, and more confident.
“You Could be the One”
On Acoustic Frequency Manders is joined by Gretta Hunstiger, who has been playing fiddle with him for a while, including here at Hymie’s, as well as percussionist Daryn Christensen. There are otherwise fewer guest appearances than on his first album, but the new songs have a faster feel and bigger sound. On the first track, “You Could be the One,” you’re hearing Liz Draper on the upright bass. On one of Manders’ most ambitious songs yet, “I Am,” Erik Struve plays the bow bass. Other songs on the album feature Flynn and Tim Houlihan on dobro.
Manders’ songs are a little denser and darker on this second album, but still have the quiet backstory that piques our interest. Christensen’s thumping bass drum lends an urgency, especially on our favorite track, “Chance Saturday,” which propels itself with an Old World drive, and in the second verse of “Here Today Gone Tomorrow.” Having played with Manders for so long, Hunstiger’s playing fits into his songs intuitively. Her supporting role is sometimes overshadowed by the harmonica, but is pretty essential to the sound of songs like that second one. She also has some standout solos throughout the album, stealing the show in an instrumental number on the second side and closing “Blind to See” with a memorable rising motif.
That song seems to be at the heart of Acoustic Frequency, in which the theme of finding one’s place in the world is placed against Manders’ background as an artist and an art teacher. He approaches the subject with confidence on some songs (“Worth Fighting For”) and anxiety (“Judgements”), but in both setting seems to struggle with the past. The details of the unspoken backstory aren’t important, because the album is about the day to day experience of accepting the person you are and the life you’ve made. Manders’ efforts to live in the moment reminds us of Charlie Parr’s “Over the Red Cedar.”
“My life is now suddenly complete,” he sings in the last song on the album, shortly after wishing he could disappear. Like several earlier songs, “Phantom” is about making peace with the past and moving forward. The song closes with a lovely ensemble arrangement. It’s a great piece of music and a moving conclusion. In “Phantom” Manders sings about walking in his neighborhood, which is also our neighborhood, and even says he’ll “shake it off,” which is awesome. That’s a great idea.
The record release show for Acoustic Frequency is this Friday evening at Patrick’s Cabaret. Baaron (featuring Ben Lubeck and Aaron Markson of Farewell Milwaukee) will open. $10 cover and free cd for the first fifty visitors (the album is also available on LP). Details on the Patrick’s calendar here, and on Facebook here.
“Spock’s Theme,” as heard in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Leonard Nimoy, the actor who indeed wrote books titled I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock, was much more than the pointy-eared green-blooded science officer aboard the USS Enterprise. In an artistic career of more than seventy years he was an actor of surprising range (given the demeanor of his famous character), a poet, a photographer, a philosopher, and a pop singer.
Maybe it’s for the best Nimoy’s legacy won’t be defined by record collectors like us, because his five albums paint a peculiar portrait of the actor, who passed away yesterday at the age of 83.
Nimoy had been ailing from obstructive pulmonary disease, which he attributed to his smoking habit, although he had not lit up since around the time he was directing Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Maybe some of the young smokers we know will find a lesson in this and quit, maybe especially those who work here at Hymie’s and just had a baby.
Nimoy’s five goofy albums were all released by Dot Records, which had recently been purchased by the giant corporate conglomeration, Gulf Western, who also swallowed up Lucille Ball’s Desilu Productions, which owned the Star Trek series. His albums were just one of many tie-ins to the series, overseen by a corporation which had previously bought zinc and aluminum importers, the largest cane sugar refinery in the world, and arcade game manufacturer Sega. It’s hard to say how seriously the records were taken.
If there was any doubt, consider the 1967 video of Nimoy singing “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” while surrounded by hobbit/Vulcan pixies.
“You Are Not Alone”
The first two present Nimoy in his Spock persona, and the rest stretch towards the easy listening/country sound of the re-branded label. Although Nimoy was a prolific poet, he wrote very few original songs on the albums, which consist mostly of pop and folk standards like “If I Had a Hammer” and John Hartford’s ubiquitous “Gentle on my Mind.” One song from the TV series appears, the one which those crummy Platonians forced him to sing.
The only time Leonard Nimoy had a hit, so to speak, was when Information Society sampled Spock’s voice on “What’s on your Mind (Pure Energy),” which reached #3 in the US in 1988. We’re guessing since this predates the 1992 US Federal Court ruling which established that sampling can constitute copyright infringement (The Biz Markie/Gilbert O’Sullivan case), Nimoy probably wasn’t paid for the use of his voice.
Let’s remember Nimoy as an inspiring artist, poet and actor, and not as a singer — though we’re sure people will be calling the shop looking for his albums this weekend.Just a couple days Nimoy posted a brief poem on his twitter page: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.”
Clark Terry isn’t the only musician associated with Quincy Jones who passed away this month — the other was singer and actress Lesley Gore, whose #1 hit single “It’s my Party” was produced by Jones. It was the first of several hits the two had together.
While also releasing his own big band albums, Jones wrote arrangements for a variety of jazz and pop singers including Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., Andy Williams, Billy Eckstine, and Peggy Lee. That’s a pretty impressive resume!
Two of our favorite Peggy Lee albums were arranged by Jones. Blues Cross Country is a fun concept album recorded in 1962, which has Lee and Jones interpreting blues standards set in cities around the country — songs like W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” and “Going to Chicago,” which was a Jimmy Rushing tune first recorded with Count Basie’s Orchestra.
“Going to Chicago”
The same year Jones released his only album for Impulse Records, Quintessence, which is one of our favorites. He based his song dedicated to Lena Horne and Lennie Hayton, “For Lena and Lenny,” on “Going to Chicago.” The two sound similar, which led us to wonder whether they were recorded by the same band. Quintessence features an awesome group of soloists, including Phil Woods, trombonist Billy Byers (who we think is especially awesome for having played on this TV theme) and, of course, Clark Terry.
“For Lena and Lenny”
A couple years ago we posted a musical biography of Quincy Jones, who is one of our favorite jazz arrangers as well as, of course, being one of the greatest record producers of all time. You can read it and enjoy the music here and here (its in two parts). Yesterday’s post featured some footage from his orchestra’s disastrous European tour in 1960, which proved to be a turning point in Q’s career, and highlighted the late Clark Terry.
While we were looking for it we also found this short documentary video about their relationship.
We’re sad to say so long to Clark Terry, whose seven-decade career is like “Big Band 101.”
During his decade with the Ellington Orchestra he played on a stack of our favorite albums. He was awesome alongside Dizzy Gillespie on “Jazz Party” and doubling on the flugelhorn essential to many of Duke’s extended suites.
He was also the guy to break the race barrier for bands on network TV, joining the all-white Tonight Show Band when it was first founded by Skitch Henderson.
Terry basically established the flugelhorn as a jazz instrument. He was a lifelong ambassador for the art form, especially in efforts to get young people interested. If you collect jazz records it’s pretty much a guarantee there’s a few in your collection on which he performed.
This clip is from the single year he was a member of the Quincy Jones Orchestra, which collapsed during its European tour and was stranded overseas and broke. Jones has said Terry was a huge inspiration to him, and encouraged him not to give up after the disaster.
“Good Morning Miss Brown”
Sometimes on a Monday morning we feel just like Taj Mahal at the beginning of The Natch’l Blues. The only cure is, of course, to listen to the rest of the album. Each of the following eight songs is just as good as “Good Morning Miss Brown” — the record is a perfect Monday morning reminder that its a big, beautiful world out there and the only thing between you and a good day is your attitude.