Usually when we revisit posts from the past, we dig deep into the archives. Today’s re-run is a song which we first posted only a year and a half ago, around the time we bought a collection that was entirely albums by Hank Williams Jr. The owner did not have any records by his father, nor a single record by another country artist at all. She liked them and loved their music, but only collected Hank Jr.’s albums. This episode reminded us that everyone collects records in their own way. Here’s what we wrote about a record she recommended we play…

hank jr and friendsThe song in yesterday’s post, “You Don’t Know How it Feels,” must be one of Tom Petty’s most popular singles. He even shot a typically goofy video for the song at the time, although in it efforts were made to mask the drug reference in its chorus with an overdub.

If anyone else could say we don’t know how it feels to be them, it might be Hank Williams Jr. For so much of his life, he lived in his father’s shadow, even though he was a highly talented multi-instrumentalist.

Hank Jr. took lessons from famous musicians as varied as Fats Domino and Earl Scruggs, and has played on his many albums at least a half dozen different instruments: guitar, banjo, dobro, piano, drums, etc.

Last week we bought a monstrous collection of country records which leaned heavily on the seventies ‘outlaw’ scene. Naturally, there were a lot of albums by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and those great Bakersfield bands of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. There were also more of Hank Jr.’s albums than we’ve ever seen at once. Whole boxes of them. Who knew there were so many?!

His 1975 album Hank Williams Jr. and Friends is a country-rock classic. It’s last song, “Living Proof,” is one of the most heartbreaking country tunes we’ve ever heard.

 

Our old friend Ben Weaver is releasing his new album, Sees Like A River, tonight at Creation Audio. Here is a link to information about tickets, but it appears online tickets are sold out — the good news is that a few seats for the intimate show have been reserved for walk-ups.

For the first time since 2008’s The Ax in the Oak, Ben recorded the album with a backing group — this time with the members of Alpha Consumer, who are some of the most talented musicians in the Twin Cities. The album also includes several short spoken word pieces, such as this one, “Uncle Whistle Bone.”

Sees Like A River is being released in a limited edition letter-pressed package which includes poetry as well as the disc. The band fits seamlessly along with Ben’s songs, but you’ll have to get yourself a copy to hear for yourself. Tonight’s performance is certain to includes the new songs as well as poems and stories from Ben’s bicycle travels and clean water advocacy projects.

Following up on yesterday’s goofy post, in which we have always enjoyed collecting songs which have the same title as another, more well-known hit, there are those “mistaken identity” singles — bands and artists with the same name as someone more successful.

For instance, Starship here should not be mistaken for the post-Kantner Jefferson Starship. This group was a short-lived collaboration between one of the Monkees and a producer best known for his work with pop idols like Shaun Cassidy.

While its hardly an essential addition to any collection — unless you’re really, really into Mickey Dolenz — their cover of “Johnny B. Goode” is a little more rockin’ than those bloated Starship albums.

 

Nope, it’s not the J.J. Cale tune which was a two time hit for Eric Clapton. Brook Benton’s “After Midnight” was a hit itself about ten years earlier. It was co-written by country songwriter Margie Singleton, who wrote songs for (and sang with) George Jones, Faron Young and others.

Songs with the same title are a favorite theme here on the Hymie’s blog.

Today’s post is a tribute to June Foray, and her extraordinary eight decade career in radio, television and film. Ms. Foray passed away this week at the age of ninety-nine. She is best known around our house as the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel and his villainous adversary Natasha Fatale on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, but its worth noting that she won an Emmy five years ago for a character on The Garfield Show. She is the oldest person to be given one of the awards. In today’s New York Times obituary, Ms. Foray is quoted comparing voice acting for animation to performing in radio drama, where she began her work at the age of twelve. She was truly a connection to the roots of animated film.

Coincidentally, yesterday we were listening to this 1957 Folkways collection of ‘modern’ composition, which has a song reminiscent of early animation music.

The album opens with the song you hear today. The composer and performer were unknown, and presumably remain unknown today as neither is listed on the Smithsonian Folkways website (here), but the recording dates from mid-20s Germany. Its amusing style draws from American jazz and European burlesque, and the album’s liner notes comment that it continues to delight fans of cartoons today.

 

 
Before you titter at its title, “Bahnfahrt” translates to “train ride,” and the song cheerfully captures the sounds and rhythms, as well as the excitement of such an experience. This Folkways album points out the unknown German composer was working in this style long before Spike Jones. “Bahnfahrt” also predates the music of Raymond Scott, such as the imitable “Powerhouse” often heard in the classic Warner Brothers cartoons of Chuck Jones and others, for which Ms. Foray often provided voices.

 

You’ve probably noticed the posts are shorter here on the Hymie’s blog lately, and its true that we wish we could simply program a summer rerun season. They’re called the dog days of summer but right now its our cat who is about twice his usual length while trying to cool off on the kitchen table, and we feel like we have about the same amount of extra energy.

In the interest of hearing something lively, here’s a post from about two years ago. We thought of it after last week’s performance performance of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

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 this 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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