Articles by Dave Hoenack

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This weekend Northrop Auditorium is celebrating the restoration of its Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ, after a year and a half of work. The Minnesota Orchestra will be performing there on Friday and Saturday night, and there is a free program on Saturday morning that will feature several performers led by the U’s organist Dean Billmeyer.

The Minnesota Orchestra’s performances are especially exciting for several reasons. First of all, Northrop was where they recorded for more than a decade during the great era of American classical recordings — then the Minneapolis Symphony, they were, along with the Detroit Symphony, the flagship performers on Mercury Records’ Living Presence imprint.

The second reason its exciting is that they’ll be performing Charles Camille Saint-Saëns’s Symphony no. 3, commonly known as “The Organ Symphony.” Also on the program is a selection from one of Bach’s Partida and a new piece by John Harbison, What Do We Make of Bach? for Orchestra and Organ.

Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony is a favorite of ours. Some listeners regard him as too conservative and neo-classical, we love his rich sense of melody. Saint-Saëns was a child prodigy and a piano virtuoso, so he wrote extensively for the keyboard. Remarkably, although for twenty years he was the organist at La Madeline cathedral in Paris, Saint-Saëns did not write much for the organ. In this symphony, one of his most popular works, he chose to feature the instrument.

The organ’s part in the Symphony no. 3 is hardly intended to display virtuosity, but rather to celebrate the instrument’s extraordinary dynamic range and power. Here we’ve divided the symphony into four tracks, but technically it consists of two movements. They do still follow something along the lines of the familiar four movement form. The organ enjoys its dramatic moment three quarters of the way through the work.

Franz Liszt was an admirer of Saint-Saëns, and in turn the composer dedicated it to his memory. In many ways it feels like a tribute to Liszt, even though Saint-Saëns could not have known his friend would pass away shortly after its premier.

Dean Billmeyer will be performing the organ this weekend with the Minnesota Orchestra. The one you’re hearing on this record is played by Franz Eibner, performing with the Vienna Philharmusica Orchestra conducted by Hans Swarowsky. There are a ton of recordings of this symphony, and honestly this is not one of the best. It just happens to be one of our favorites for is brisk pacing and the wonderful interplay between the organ and the celeste and piano which follow its exciting appearance.

Mercury released a recording the symphony by of Paul Paray and the Detroit Symphony that is sure to please any audiophile, if they’re able to find a fine copy. Decca Records has recently reissued this and several other Living Presence titles on remastered 180gram LPs. Eugene Ormandy’s recording of the Symphony was a big seller and often turns up in record shops like ours (there’s one here right now). It features the legendary organist E. Power Biggs. A recording which captures the symphony’s darker, more brooding moments is the one by Charles Munch conduction the Boston Symphony on RCA’s Red Seal label. According to the liner notes, this one features another organ made by the Aeolian-Skinner company, who were based in Boston.

If you are lucky enough to hear the Organ Symphony this weekend at Northrop Auditorium, you’ll be sure to also feel it. Northrop’s 7000 pipe organ is sure to sound spectacular, especially in Saint-Saëns’s coda, where some of the bass notes are just barely in our range of hearing!

Minneapolis is one of the largest cities in America to toss out Columbus Day and no longer celebrate the life of a genocidal mass murderer. Today is Indigenous Peoples Day in the city, although when you got to the bank and thought Damn! the sign on the door probably still said “Closed for Columbus Day.”

We had proposed this change here on the Hymie’s blog every Columbus Day for years, and also produced a program about the music of the Native American protest movement for KFAI’s Wave Project in 2011. Here it is:

Murder by Death is performing tonight at the Cedar Cultural Center. They’re touring to support their eighth album, The Other Shore. We’ve been listening to it a lot over the past month, and are looking forward to the show tonight.

Six years ago they performed here at Hymie’s, and one song is still up on Youtube.

long lone railroad track

Its a great old country train song, but we can’t help but imagine someone, somewhere, was disappointed by this release on Black Panther Records.

seventh son willie mabon

Folklore around the world attributes supernatural powers to the scion of an unbroken line of males: the seventh son of a seventh son. These are sometimes dark, demonic powers, as in Argentina, where if the seventh son of a seventh son is not baptized in seven churches he will become the lobizón, a werewolf. Other cultures bestow upon him powers of premonition, or Christ-like abilities to heal merely by touch.

In 1 Chronicles 2:15 we learn David, second sovereign of the Kingdom of Israel, was the seventh son of Jesse. Apostles Matthew and Luke later assure us the Messiah was descendent of David. The lesser prophet Gad, who in 2 Samuel 24:11-13 instructed David to return to Judah where he would ultimately rule, was the seventh son of Jacob. The Book of Gad the Seer is a lost text.

We have already written about Ralph Ellison’s 1952 masterpiece, The Invisible Man. The book comes up again in the form of Petey Wheatstraw, who Ellison’s narrator meets in Harlem, and who claims to be the seventh son of a seventh son. Wheatstraw is drawn from Peetie Wheatstraw, blues singer alternately billed on records as “The Devil’s Son in Law” and “The High Sheriff from Hell,” who may have been the source of the Robert Johnson/”Crossroads” mythology.

Willie Dixon wrote “Seventh Son” in 1955, playing bass on the original recording by Willie Mabon. He performed the song himself on a 1970 album which included other songs he’d written as a Chess sideman, including “Back Door Man” and “I Ain’t Superstitious,” both associated with Howlin’ Wolf. It has likewise been covered many times over the years — notably by Johnny Rivers on his album, Meanwhile Back at the Whiskey A Go Go, by pianist Mose Alison, the Climax Blues Band and George Thorogood. Unfortunately the song has also been recorded by Sting.

willie dixoncannonball earth

The Johnny Rivers album, his third of five ostensibly recorded the legendary Los Angeles club, sounds suspiciously to some like a studio recording with overdubbed crowd noise. Still, his “Seventh Son” peaked at, you guessed it, #7 on the singles chart.mose alison

Iron Maiden’s seventh album explored clairvoyance, madness and evil in what began as a concept album based on the seventh son of a seventh son mythology. If there is a story to Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, we can’t follow it, although we’ve always considered “Can I Play with Madness?” a favorite track by the band. “Moonchild” is an entertaining entry into the hard rock obsession with occultist Aleister Crowley, and the title song places the eponymous soul at the crossroads:

Then they watch the progress he makes
The Good and the evil which path will he take
Both of them trying to manipulate
The use of his powers before it’s too late

On the jacket the tragic Eddie retains his lobotomy scar from Piece of Mind, as well as his cybertronic parts from Somewhere in Time. In addition he is disemboweled, and proffers a fetus.

iron maiden seventh

cannonball earth“Seventh Son” was one of the first songs Joe Zawinul contributed after joining the Cannonball Adderely band, then a sextet featuring Yusef Lateef. The Austrian pianist went on to contribute some of the bands’ best material for its Capitol Recordings in the mid-60s including the hit “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” and later led Weather Report with Wayne Shorter.

“He’s always off on one trip or another,” says the band’s leader on The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Person.

Irene would like us to share her favorite Beach Boys track, the end of Pet Sounds. The album’s title is a reference to Brian Wilson and the fantastic arrangements he created on the record, largely working with session musicians without the other Beach Boys. Still, it ends with some actual pets.

Another LP ending of special interest to dogs is heard on Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, an album widely known to have been influenced by Pet Sounds.  Here the album concludes with a lock groove, also called a loop groove, meaning that the needle will track through the same two seconds over and over. This obnoxious feature is only found on the original UK Parlaphone pressings of the album, but the two seconds of sound and voice can be heard on the US compilation Rarities.

What many people didn’t know is that the loop is preceded by a 15-kilohertz tone that will get your dog’s attention.

We have encountered a number of acetates of radio station spots and themes with lock grooves at the end of each track — the technique was originally developed by record cutters to help prevent disc jockey errors. Basically the grooves do not allow the needle to continue forward either to the label as at the end of a record or to the next track if somewhere in the middles of the side’s program. In the case of radio stations and spots the loop is simply silence, which we’ll find again in the Moby Grape recording below.

The normal groove runs to a lock groove at the end of the run out space, just outside of the needle. Sgt. Peppers may be the most famous record with a lock groove but it was not the first one we encountered.  When we were kids we did not understand the technology but loved the fact that Fozzie the Bear is left forever calling for help at the end of the Muppet Show 2, as heard here.

Arista Records, the label which released the Muppet Show 2 is also the label which released Monty Python’s vexing three-sided album (Matching Tie and Hankerchief) which features parallel grooves, meaning that two entirely separate programs could be heard on one side depending where the listener dropped the needle.  We’ll visit that anomalous record sometime in the future.

Our research suggests the earliest use of a lock groove in ‘popular’ music was a flexi disc that came with issue #3 of the short-lived multimedia magazine Aspen in 1966. The track was produced by John Cale of the Velvet Underground and was titled “Loop”. On the disc it said, “final groove purposely left open.” This was, of course, not as widely distributed a release as the Beatles album.

Some years later, Cale’s bandmate Lou Reed concluded Metal Machine Music also ends with a lock groove. The the time listed for side four of the album lists it as ∞. It’s possible that nobody has ever noticed because nobody has yet made it to the end of side four. Other loop grooves in our collection appear on Sonic Youth’s Evol album, where the track’s time is likewise listed with the symbol for infinity, and on Moby Grape’s album Wow.

Wow is already an interesting album in that it was packaged along with a second separate record (Grape Jam) but the end of its first side makes it one of the most uniquely mastered albums in rock and roll.  After “Can’t It Be So” Skip Spense reminds listeners to change the record to 78 rpm for the next song. There is then a lock groove preventing the needle from moving forward. After the listener has changed the speed to 78 rpm and nudged the needle forward he or she would hear this track. We’ve left in Skip Spense’s introduction.

That’s Arthur Godfrey introducing the number and playing ukulele (oh, for the days when a Arthur Godfrey was a kick ass guest artist).  The song by Spense is called “Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot”.  Surface noise has been added to increase the old time feeling of the track.  It was likely this was not an enormous inconvenience to listeners in 1969 but when three-speed turntables were more common, but it may mean trouble for many with more modern machines.

Our old friends the Southside Aces have been holding down a residency at the Eagles Club #34 here in the neighborhood for longer than we can remember. On the second Thursday of every month the present an evening of traditional jazz certain to please even the most discriminating listener or dancer. Often we discuss upcoming themes with clarinetist Tony Balluff here in the shop, whether it’s a night of early Ellingtonia or an evening with the music of Sidney Bechet.

And for a long time we have been encouraging the talented Mr. Balluff to consider a jazz theme that is ostensibly outside the box — the music featured on The Muppet Show!

You may think its silly at first, but the early Muppet performers — Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt and more — loved traditional jazz. The show itself was modeled after a vaudeville program. Its magical and meteoric five year run was peppered with tunes from the turn of the century through the jazz era.

We have been posting about the music of The Muppet Show since the early days of the Hymies blog, just search in that box on your right for “muppet” and you’ll see! We are very excited for the Aces to perform many of the jazz standards which appeared on the show as well as their interpretations of some Muppet originals we suggested. All this happens this coming Thursday and the Eagles Club!

Here is one of our favorite Irving Berlin tunes as it appeared in the third season of The Muppet Show. A little background: “Blue Skies” was also the first song heard in a motion picture, when Al Jolson sang it in The Jazz Singers. It was written to fill space in a largely forgotten Rodgers & Hart musical called Betsy but went on to become a favorite of jazz music.

 

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