Two more messages of affirmation, following up on the theme of yesterday’s post about Ricky Nelson, each from unique artists you have to dig pretty deep into the crates to find these days.

DSC07072
The first is by Exuma, whose surreal albums transcend the confines of genre, combining carnival with calypso, balladic melodies and a preoccupation with the spirituality and folklore of Obeah. Although he was an underground figure for most of his career, his early albums for major labels appear in the shop from time to time and always brighten our day.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Walking Home” by Exuma

DSC07073The second is from an equally original source, voice-over artist Ken Nordine. His “Word Jazz” LPs present his bizarre, often Kafka-esque stories in the style of the beat poets. On his early albums for Dot, he’s backed by the Northern Jazz Quartet, led by Richard Campbell. He later recorded with the Chico Hamilton Quintet, and also served as a vocal coach to Linda Blair during the filming of The Exorcist.

This track from Word Jazz Vol. II puts a positive spin on Nordine’s paranoia.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“You’re Getting Better” by Ken Nordine

On October 15, 1971 Rick Nelson and his band were booed off the stage of a rock n’ roll revival concert at Madison Square Garden. Nelson, with long hair and bell bottom jeans, played some of his band’s newer material along with his 50s hits like “Hello Mary Lou.” It was a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman” which turned the crowd against him.

He wrote the song “Garden Party” about his experience, which was his first hit in nearly a decade.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Garden Party” by Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band

Ironically, by the end of the decade his live sets again included most of his early hits (he had 52 songs on Billboard’s singles chart before “Garden Party”). Regardless, the simple message of his last hit single is the same: You can’t please everybody, so you got to please yourself.

garden partyOf course, Nelson did a lot of pleasing himself in those days and after — his personal problems and drug use were probably a big part of why record buyers weren’t interested in his countrified persona with the Stone Canyon Band. Listeners quickly tire of the troubled artist who isn’t able to keep it together, just as we all get weary of the narcissist in our lives, whether its a friend or a family member: they’re the people who can’t seem to survive without help, yet are quick to tell you what to do. They relish in your failure and strike at you when you succeed — the only way they can express themselves is through snarky remarks, just as Nelson does in deriding George Harrison as “Mr. Hughes in Dylan’s shoes.”

We love Ricky Nelson’s hit songs — they were a regular part of our rockabilly sets when we DJed at the Turf Club for years — but from a different perspective his behavior on that October evening was a case of such narcissism. Nobody came to a rock n’ roll revival show to hear a set of country music. The other artists on the bill — Bobby Rydell, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley — all offered solid sets of rock n’ roll hits, as promised, even though each had recorded new material (even some country songs) in the years since their collective peak. Sulking backstage and refusing to step out and bow with the others solidifies his selfish behavior.

The message of “Garden Party” goes both ways, and the audience was under no obligation to please Nelson by indulging his new interests. From this different perspective, the song reminds us that there’s no reason to have a narcissistic person in your life. They will never change. When Nelson died in a plane crash in 1985, investigators found traces of marijuana, cocaine and painkillers in his blood. As much as we love those classic singles on Imperial which made Nelson a star in the 50s, we could do without the person he became.

 

 

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

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Remember Pearl Harbor” by Sammy Kaye and his Orchestra

What a day

Some days get derailed, and everything just seems to go wrong. Just ask these guys.

meadows lp

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“What a Day” by the Meadows

Today’s going to be a good day here at Hymie’s though, even if its a little grey and gloomy out there. Two of our favorite groups are going to visit for an in-store performance this evening, both celebrating recent record releases. The Ericksons‘ forth album, Bring me Home, came out back in October, the week before Brian Laidlaw & the Family Trade released the first single on our own label, Hymie’s Records. Brian Laidlaw also just finished his epic book & record project based on the story of Bonnie and Clyde, which we posted last week (here). Both groups have performed here at Hymie’s several times over the years, and they’ll be back again this evening starting at 7pm. We hope you can visit and start the weekend with some good music.

 

When Napoleon’s Grande Armée entered Moscow after the bloody Battle of Borodino in September 1812, they expected to settle victoriously into a restful winter. Instead, they found a city of ruins, from which nearly the entire population had fled, taking with them any food and supplies with which to survive the winter. The Russian Army had burned much of it to the ground, and so robbed of victory, the Grande Armée began the disastrous retreat which left it decimated before reaching Poland.

The events are remembered with pride by Russians, who call the French invasion the Patriotic War of 1812. Twenty years later, Tsar Alexander I (he who had once said of Napoleon, “He or I, I or he: We cannot reign together!”) commission the construction of the Cathedral of the Savior to commemorate the triumph over the French. Decades later, its completion coincided with the 25th anniversary of Alexander II’s coronation and the 1862 Moscow Arts and Industry Exhibition — the greatest of all Russian composers, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, was asked to compose a work for the festivity. In six short weeks he had completed a score and a most ambitious plan.

550px-Cathedral_of_Christ_the_Saviour_1903Having learned his work would be performed in the open square before the cathedral, and that a brass band would be made available to him, Tchaikovsky approached the opportunity with uncharacteristic flamboyance. He arranged for the cathedral’s bells to accompany his orchestra as well, and for those of every church within earshot to join in his triumphant finale. Most remarkable of all, he arranged for the use of several cannons, which were to be wired to an electrical panel at his conductor’s stand, so that he himself could time their explosive contribution.

Yet as we have learned from Robert Burns, “the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley.” Why Tchaikovsky’s magnificent plan went unrealized has been described by the New York Time‘s music critic Robert Sherman as “a minor Russian mystery.” It may likely have been the assasination of Alexander II in St. Petersburg, or a collapse of the composer’s enormous house of cards. The cause is lost to the past, and when Tchaikovsky was finally able to debut his Year 1812 Festival Overture in E♭ major, in a tent beside the incomplete Cathedral, it was in a simpler arrangement un-augmented by brass, bells or artillery. He would never hear his original score performed.
Tchaikovsky himself conducted the Overture at the official opening of Carnegie Hall on May 5th, 1881. He attempted to reproduce the original spectacle as planned in Berlin, but was not given permission. The earliest known recordings of the work were made in England two decades after Tchaikovsky’s death in 1893, and follow his second scoring. We are most proud to inform you that it was the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra which created the first faithful production of Tchaikovsky’s original score.

In 1954, Mercury Records’ “Living Presence” imprint recorded the Minneapolis Symphony inside Northrop Auditorium with the accompaniment of the University of Minnesota Brass Band. Upon this recording they added authentic recordings of Napoleonic single muzzle-loading cannons, recorded with the help of the Museum of the US Military Academy of West Point. A stereo version in 1958 added recordings from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon at Riverside Church in Manhattan, which includes the single largest tuned bell in the world (twenty tons!). The album is a classic and one of the finest accomplishments of the Minneapolis Symphony during the Antal Dorati period.

In 1990 the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated the 150th anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s birth by producing the Overture with the live accompaniment of cannons for perhaps the first time. Sentimental readers may be moved to learn the performance was made within earshot of the composer’s grave.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Tchaikovsky’s Year 1812 Festival Overture in E♭ major, performed by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra with Antal Dorati conducting.

1812 minneapolis

The 1812 Overture, as it is commonly known, rarely exceeds fifteen minutes — and while its production may be complex, the score follows a straightforward narrative using familiar themes. Tchaikovsky chose to use the Russian and French national anthems to represent the opposing armies as he describes the Battle of Borodino and the failed French occupation of Moscow. The celebratory climax is the celebration after the fleeing French must abandon their artillery as it becomes stuck in the freezing soil and the cannons are turned against them. The Russian anthem, “God Save the Tsar,” is played triumphantly with the tolling of the bells.Film fans might recall the moving scene in Casablanca in which Paul Henreid inspires the patrons of Rick’s Cabaret by asking the band to play La Marseillaise in response to a chorus of Nazi officers. The French national anthem became a symbol of the underground resistance during the German occupation, although in Napoleon’s day it had been banned (La Marseillaise had only a few years earlier been re-instated as the national anthem when Tchaikovsky used it in his Overture). Likewise, his use of “God Save the Tsar” falls into the classical composition equivalent of IMDB’s Goofs category. It was the national anthem when Tchaikovsky wrote the Overture in 1881, but it had been chosen in a competition held in 1833.
Another anachronism of Tchaikovsky’s score is the Russian bells themselves, which are different from cathedral bells elsewhere. Until the savage destruction of Churches under Soviet atheism, Russian bells were tolled in a manner known then as zvon. A zvonnar, or bell-toller, would move a mallet within a stationary bell, rather than the moving bells we are familiar with in here the west. The construction of the bells themselves is different: each western bells has an octave range, while each traditional Russian bell has one of a seventh, but greater subtlety in the scales of sounds produced. Most Russian bells in the zvon tradition were destroyed by the Soviets in the early 30s.
destruction-of-christ-the-savior-cathedralIn fact, the Cathedral of the Savior was destroyed by dynamite on December 5th, 1931. It took more than a year to remove the rubble which had been a Cathedral constructed over decades. The Palace of Soviets, proposed to take its place, was never completed. For a period of time the location was the world’s largest swimming pool.A second Cathedral of the Savior was built beginning in 1990, and consecrated in the year 2000. It was where Boris Yeltsin lied in state, and where Pussy Riot performed the “Punk Prayer” protest which led to their arrest and imprisonment in 2012. Theirs are rung simply moving a mallet within a stationary bell,

The Osmonds have sold more than 100 million records, but these days they’re not of much interest to young collectors. What we find interesting is that the Osmonds are in a way the original vinyl purists: none of their 60s and 70s albums has ever been officially released on CD. Any you may have seen were European bootlegs.

That mainstream rock fans hardly held fast to the family group of nine siblings (two born deaf, didja know that?) is inextricable from their espoused faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Conservatives responded cooly to Mitt Romney’s Mormonism in 2012 — imagine how rock fans responded to the Osmond’s 1973 proselytizing rock opera, The Plan. It was uncomfortable and more off-putting than Pete Townshend’s love for Meher Baba.

When MGM granted the group its own imprint a year earlier, they named it for Kalob, the celestial body still undiscovered and alternately described by Mormon theologians as a planet and a star. It is the body nearest the Throne of God, where the Earth was created before being moved to its present location. This isn’t as weird as the Mormon plan for salvation, which requires a flow chart, but not exactly the kind of stuff music fans are dying to discuss.

The Osmonds’ first release on MGM/Kalob was Crazy Horses, a stark departure from the bubblegum pop sound which had made them best-sellers. They wrote their own songs and played their own instruments (Merril on vocals and bass, Wayne on lead guitar, Donny on the keys and Jay on the drums — in case you’re wondering). The result is a hodgepodge of sixties psychedelia and seventies rock which is surprisingly fun.

crazy_horses_front“Crazy Horses” is a response to the pollution caused by automobiles. Maybe it’s one of the first songs about global warming (we’ll let record store blogs of the future make that call) — either way the cut is a hard rock gem, although its hard to imagine rockers bringing a copy of the LP to the counter. Crazy Horses borrows from Willie Dixon on the title track and from Led Zeppelin (who borrowed from Chess Records blues regularly) on “Hold me Tight.” There’s also some Bread/Eagles light rock which fits the feel of the times. The psychedelia aspirations interspersed through the album fall flat, or at least feel phony — what are the odds these boys ever even smelled weed, let alone smoked it?! — but there’s some striking moments of solid rock and roll. And they hardly let Donny sing.

If the rest of the album had rocked like “Crazy Horses,” we’d probably all have this in our collections next to Sabbath or Rainbow or some other sludgy 70s jams. As it is the album is a weird relic, a surreal amalgam of the strange forces at work in those heady days of the early 70s. The kind of thing only a record collector could understand.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Crazy Horses”

Krazy Kat

“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” -Twyla Tharp

Around this time last year, we wrote about The Nutcracker‘s stifling effect on modern ballet after taking our daughter to see a performance and then spending days discussing what she insisted was pronounced bal-la-let. Since the 50s, Tchaikovsky’s 1892 work has become nearly a required work for all major American ballet companies, today providing nearly half the annual revenue for most.

Dance, of course, has produced some of the most enjoyable music in the classical repertoire, although as record collectors our interaction with it is strangely removed. The Allegro in Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, for instance, is by all accounts a barn dance (“Merry gathering of country folks,” in the maestro’s words) but it is the sublime passing of a summer storm in the following movement (heard here) which most captivates listeners, rather than the lively scherzo to which the country folks dance. Most listeners, ourselves surely included, have no idea what choreography accompanies favorite ballets, from Ravel’s Daphne and Chloe to Igor Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring. It is often hard for those unfamiliar with the art to even imagine.

Frank Zappa famously remarked that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” and yet here we write and here you read. There’s a magical element of human movement in all music, whether ballet or Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass,” which has inexplicably been watched on Youtube three hundred and twenty-five million times but never pressed onto a 12″ single (we’ll wait here while you make it three hundred and twenty-five million and one). Whether the same is true of the written word is hard to say — our favorite books have never really inspired us to dance, but then again neither has Frank Zappa.

kk1

There is a sense of movement in the visual arts, and here at Hymie’s we’ve always harbored a love of comic books. Consider, for instance, George Heriman’s Krazy Kat, often considered the first newspaper comic to attain intellectual regard (making it also the first comic strip for academia to ruin by squeezing out all the joy with overwrought interpretations). If you have never read Krazy Kat, you’re in for a treat one day.

Heriman’s one-sided love affair between Krazy Kat and brick-hurling Ignatz Mouse is beautifully choreographed and set against a surreal landscape that might have come from contemporary theater. The cartoons based on Heriman’s comics produced by Randolph Hearst’s newsreel service (Hearst was also Heriman’s publisher) patterned themselves after the more-famous Felix the Cat shorts, and were stripped of the strange backdrop, although it was later the inspiration for the Roadrunner and Coyote desert southwest. Heriman’s art is not as famous today as other works from the Jazz Age, but Charles M. Schultz, Patrick McDonnell, Will Eisner and Bill Watterson all identify Krazy Kat as an inspiration. Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson recently wrote on his blog about a Krazy Kat he’d long wanted to “steal.”

kk2

kk3

kk4American composer John Alden Carpenter recognized the innate dance between Krazy Kat and Ignatz and wrote a ballet based on the strip which debuted in 1922. Carpenter’s Krazy Kat incorporates the jazz of his native Chicago, but as David Barker writes it is more “jaunty Jazz Age music than true jazz.” From his notes to a 1977 recording by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which includes quotes from the composer’s score:

kk5

It begins with the awakening of Krazy, for whom there’s an expressive theme, from an afternoon katnap; he sights a grand-ball announcement poster and makes a serendipitous discovery of a ballet skirt hanging on a clothesline and of a conveniently dropped make up kit; he sucumbs to the temptation to make use of them while Ignaz (perky piccolo theme), with his brick at the ready, is frightened off by Offisa Pup; the now warmed-up Krazy does a one-man (or -kat) “zippy but languorous” Spanish dance, complete with castanets’ he receives a bouquet of katnip from a mysterious stranger (betrayed by the piccolo as Ignaz in disguise; the soon stoned Krazy abandons all decorum in a “Katnip Blues” dance, at the conclusion of which Ignaz, throwing off his disguise, finally gets to fling his brick; the exhausted, masochistically ecstatic Krazy toters back to the base of his napping tree as Offisa Pup, swinging his club, passed by again. ‘The moon comes out. Krazy sleeps. Krazy dreams. Indomitable Kat!’

kk6

We love sharing musical works inspired by comics. Already this month we posted Jimmy Bowen’s silly album of music inspired by Sunday morning comics (here) and mentioned the majesty of Krazy Kat. Naturally, we were ecstatic to discover today’s record.

Carpenter’s success inspired the era’s great patron of dance, Sergei Diaghilev, to commission the work which would eclipse Krazy Kat, the composer’s “ballet of modern American life,” Skyscrapers, debuted four years later. Krazy Kat is seldom performed, and was not recorded in its entirety until the work appeared on the 1977 collection of modern, jazz-inspired works seen above and heard below. There is no footage of a performance, so we can only imagine how the joyous hilarity of Adolf Bolm’s choreography.

kk7

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

John Alden Carpenter’s Krazy Kat performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Orchestra, conducted by John Powellkk8

 

« Older entries § Newer entries »

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.