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Deep in the Hymie’s blog archives there’s a post about performers who had a tough “first day” on the job, as for instance Temptation Dennis Edwards, who was outshone by his predecessor, David Ruffin, at performances until Motown hired security to keep the ex-Temptation from literally stealing the spotlight.

We ended that post with Heaven and Hell, the first of the few Dio-era Black Sabbath albums. We consider Heaven and Hell a success and singled out “Neon Nights” as a pretty good song, but many regular readers disagreed. There’s never any consensus on Sabbath albums, is there?

The other records we chose all featured disappointing replacements like drummer Kenny Jones, who really can’t be blamed for the Who’s lousy Face Dances album though it’s awfully easy to see it that way. Today we thought we’d feature a successful replacement since there are some. In fact, we think of ourselves as exactly that, not being the original proprietors of your friendly neighborhood record shop. It’s hard to step into big shoes.

bernstein debut

Today’s last-minute replacement, went on to become pretty darn famous himself, and his debut represents a truly historic moment: On Sunday November 14, 1943 twenty-five year old Leonard Bernstein was given a couple hours notice that he must replace the New York Philharmonic’s conductor, the legendary Bruno Walter, who had become ill.

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Heard here is the beginning of the evening’s program, which opened with the “Star Spangled Banner” and Robert Schumann’s “Manfred” Overture (Op 115). The highlight of Bernstein’s debut was Don Quixote, one of the most complex and interesting of Strauss’ tone poems. Bernstein handled his assignment with class, and was well received by critics.

He went on, of course, to succeed Dimitri Mitropoulos as musical director of the New York Philharmonic in 1958, following in Walter’s footsteps in one of the most important positions in American music at that time. Bernstein’s eleven years with the Philharmonic included many fantastic recordings which are favorites of ours.

KUSC Radio in Los Angeles, California recorded the performance at Carnegie Hall from a cross-country line. The recording was preserved on 16-inch acetate discs (like the 16-inch records you may have noticed here in the record shop). These were transferred and released by the New York Philharmonic as an in-house souvenir in 1983, the double LP from which we took the recording of Bernstein’s debut.

Yesterday’s post focused on the first collaborations between jazz arranger Gil Evans and Miles Davis. Of course, the ‘Birth of the Cool’ sessions were just the beginning of a beautiful friendship, from which later came some of the best and most original jazz records of the sixties — including Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain and others.

Davis’ progression towards the revolutionary early jazz fusion albums In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew is well-known, as is the inspiration he took from groups like Sly & the Family Stone. Less familiar is the potential collaboration between Gil Evans and Jimi Hendrix, whose music the Canadian arranger had first discovered at the encouragement of his wife. Hendrix and Evans had scheduled a meeting which never happened because of the guitarist’s untimely death in September 1970.

It’s hard to imagine what an album they may have made together would sound like — but it probably would have been awesome. Four years later Evans made an album featuring jazz arrangements of Hendrix’s songs. It’s a good record, but it will always be colored by a sense of “what if.”

gil evans jimi

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“Angel”

 

peter

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“Peter Cottontail” by Gene Autry

DSC07239In yesterday’s post about the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s groundbreaking digital recording of Appalachian Spring we mentioned that Aaron Copland himself had earlier conducted a recording of the original 13-piece arrangement of the ballet. We never loved that recording as much as the SPCO’s, but both are records we’d recommend in a heartbeat.

We also wrote disparagingly about the “Copland Conducts Copland” series but it really has less to do with the quality of the recordings than with what the period of time in his career represented. His transition traveling guest conductor was the result of his diminished inspiration as a composer. He is quoted, heartbreakingly, in Howard Pollack’s biography Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man, as saying “it was exactly as if someone had simply turned off a faucet.”

We find it sad to imagine an artist bound to his earliest works because of its enduring popularity, having never understood how for instance Bruce Springsteen can still drag “Born to Run” onto stage with any passion. Copland, in his later years, was often invited to conduct Appalachian Spring, Rodeo and Billy the Kid. For good measure also The Red Pony and Fanfare for the Common Man at times, all fine works and famous for a reason.

His late-period twelve tone compositions like the Piano Fantasy are rarely performed in the country which declares him a favorite son, just as (let’s be honest here) nobody really wants to hear songs from the last decade’s worth of Bruce Springsteen albums. This isn’t a fate which befalls all composers or all rock stars. Richard Strauss, for instance, had something of a renaissance of creativity in his seventies and eighties, composing his Four Last Songs almost in anticipation of his own passing. And until this Frank Sinatra bullshit it seemed like Bob Dylan was as creative as ever (maybe that’s the idea — you never know with Dylan).

DSC07242Anyways, every record collector in the world loves any kind of album insert, especially a bonus disc. And any music lover would enjoy hearing a favorite composer rehearse one of their most famous pieces. Columbia’s Masterworks division experimented with 7-inch inserts for a while, offering insights into the album by Leonard Bernstein or Bruno Walter, or in this case recordings of the rehearsals.

The little bonus record provides an interesting and enjoyable portrait of Copland, both as a composer and a conductor, as well as an opportunity to imagine what it would be like to revisit one’s own work decades later.

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Oh Mercy

If you were to find yourself copies all of Bob Dylan’s studio and live albums (not to mention the eleven-volume Bootleg Series) you’d need a pretty big shelf for your collection of more than sixty records. There are probably a lot of complete collections here in the Twin Cities alone, and all over the world.

We don’t have a complete Dylan discography at home, but we do have a big shelf of his albums — and we’d have a hard time choosing a favorite. Dylan’s career has gone through so many different eras, and each has its highlights. When, for instance, the Bootleg Series presented outtakes from New Morning and Self Portrait a couple years ago, we we very excited — those are two of our favorites. We posted a couple tracks here at the time.

We’re also fans of his recent albums, especially Modern Times and Tempest, and of this 1989 record which is often described as one of his “comeback” albums.

oh mercy Dylan’s ’89 affair was not the only “comeback” of the era. The same was said of several baby boomer artists — Lou Reed’s New York and Neil Young’s Freedom, for instance, and whatever Paul McCartney released that year. Like the others, Dylan balanced fresh social commentary with introspection about aging. At the time, this was lost on Gen Xers like ourselves, who were more in tune with younger artists, but we’re seeing albums like Oh Mercy become more popular with our peers as we all grow into our own time for introspection.

Oh Mercy is otherwise very different from the back-to-basics of New York and Freedom, because Dylan chose to work with producer Daniel Lanois, who at the time was best known for his work on U2’s The Joshua Tree and Peter Gabriel’s So. The result is a lushly layered landscape never before heard on a Dylan album, and a very different approach to recording his voice.

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“Political World”

Oh Mercy is the first step towards the sound Dylan would embrace ten years later with Time out of Mind (also produced by Lanois) and the several albums since (all produced by Dylan himself). You can especially hear this sound evolving in “Most of the Time,” which treats Dylan’s trademark rasp as an advantage, rather than trying to hide its rough edges through mixing, as producers had done throughout the 80s. Its a shame the same technique wasn’t used on songs like “Brownsville Girl,” the epic track stranded in the middle of Knocked Out Loaded, one of the most disappointing Dylan albums.

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“Most of the Time”

The reason we’ve been listening to Oh Mercy lately is “Ring Them Bells,” a song which seems to fit nearly any era, but especially one in which horrible things like what happened in Paris last week are heartbreakingly commonplace. Lanois lays his reverberated guitar lower on this track, on which Dylan himself plays the piano. We’ve seen Dylan on nearly every visit to the Twin Cities since Oh Mercy, but haven’t ever heard him play this song.

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“Ring Them Bells”

Most of Oh Mercy is dark and desperate, like the next song, “The Man in the Long Black Coat.” This is the mood of most of Dylan’s recent albums. Unlike some other 60s icons, Dylan has aged with grace and a measure of dignity. That’s why he can appear in a lingerie ad without seeming like a dirty old man, and its one of the reasons we’ve stuck with him through the good albums and the bad albums.

Last year a local music blog ran an interview in which some kids described a new record store as the only one in town run by someone under fifty. It stung a little, since neither of us is near fifty yet, and we both feel pretty young even though we have the trappings of older folks: two kids, mortgage, nuanced non-dogmatic views, and yes, not the same faces we had at twenty. George Carlin once commented our thirties are hard because the whole world seems to be eighteen or forty-five.

On the other side of the album, Dylan says “there’s a whole lot of people tonight suffering from the disease of conceit,” and he’s right. And you can’t let that stuff get to you, because another great songwriter, Taylor Swift, is right:

Players gonna play play play
Haters gonna hate hate hate
Baby, I’m gonna shake shake shake
Shake it off

When he recorded Oh Mercy, Dylan still had some of his best work up ahead, and also some lean years where he admits in Chronicles Volume I the songs just didn’t come as easily as they once had. That’s why he recorded those couple albums of old folk songs. The one bright spot of his mid-90s output, “Dignity,” first first appeared on Greatest Hits Volume 3 and MTV Unplugged, but the song was actually an outtake from Oh Mercy.

Tolstoy was seventy-two when he wrote Resurrection, one of the best novels we can recall reading. There’s enough examples like that to fill a motivational poster. John Glenn was seventy-seven when he went into space. He went into fucking space!

And Colonel Sanders didn’t open the first Kentucky Fried Chicken until he was sixty-five. It’s true, look it up!

222px-The_Simpsons-Jeff_AlbertsonSo who knows, maybe we’ll grow old here at Hymie’s, so long as we’re all still having fun. Who knows what the record store be like in 2050? One thing’s for sure, we won’t be here if we start to look like the guy on the left. There’s a reason Bart and Milhouse despise him.

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“Shooting Star”

There are as many as a quarter of a million records in the shop on a good day. It can be hard to choose, which is why there are also why we provide three listening stations where you can sample any of them. We appreciate very much that all of our regular customers put the records back after they listen to them, otherwise we’d have a lot of extra work to do at the end of the day.

Sometimes you get to the listening station, put the album on and realize someone has put the wrong record in the jacket. Sometimes these mismatches create the strangest combinations…

stand by your man

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mas ariba

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PHONE CALL

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Ben Weaver Buffalo LP

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xon the corner

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Can’t get enough? More mismatches here

Four of the remaining nine survivors of the USS Arizona were in Hawaii today to mark the seventy-third anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Nearly 1200 sailors died on the battleship, including twenty-three pairs of brothers and a father and son, Thomas Augusta Free and William Thomas Free.

Those interested in music may mourn the loss of the entire USS Arizona band, US Navy Band Unit 22, who had been on deck to play for the morning flag-raising ceremony. They had previously qualified for the finals in the Navy’s annual “Battle of the Bands,” and were unanimously declared the winners after the attack — the award today is known at the USS Arizona Band Trophy. It is the only such loss of an entire military band in American history.

HITH_pearl_harbor_banner

 

Much of the ships structure and armament were salvaged after the attack, to be reused in the war effort. The remains of the ship, under about forty feet of water, became the final resting place for more than 900 servicemen. Many more survivors have since chosen to have their cremated remains interred in the wreck.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation to create a national monument in 1958, and the construction of the 180-foot, bright white marble structure over the Arizona was funded by private donations. Just after his two-year enlistment in the US Army, Elvis Presley performed a benefit concert at Pearl Harbor’s arena which raised $50,000.

According to its architect, Alfred Preis, “Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory….The overall effect is one of serenity. Overtones of sadness have been omitted to permit the individual to contemplate his own personal responses…his innermost feelings.” You can read more about the Memorial on the National Park Service’s official website.

One of the four survivors at Pearl Harbor today is Donald Stratton, 92. He was hospitalized for over a year, with burns over sixty-five percent of his body, but re-enlisted soon after. “The good Lord saved just a few of us,” he told reporters.

ww2 songs

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“Remember Pearl Harbor” by Sammy Kaye and his Orchestra

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