Alabama

This weekend marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma marches, as you have probably read in the newspaper. Three times protesters walked the 54 miles from Selma to Alabama’s capitol, Montgomery, to call attention to the failure of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect African American’s voting rights.

The third march, which began on March 21st, brought as many as twenty-five thousand people to Montgomery. Governor George Wallace refused to protect the protestors, despite the violence which hung over the previous marches, including the murder of a minister from Boston and the widely-published and shocking photograph of Amelia Boynton Robinson, who was beaten unconscious by police officers on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Contrary to the way he is portrayed in a recent film, President Lyndon Johnson acted to protect the protesters on the third march, taking federal control of the Alabama National Guard on March 20th, and sending a thousand military police and two thousand army troops to escort the marchers to Montgomery.

Famous musicians who participated and performed together on March 24th include Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Peter, Paul and Mary, Sammy Davis Jr., Joan Baez and Nina Simone, who of course mentioned Alabama in her powerful protest song “Mississippi Goddamn.”

The route today is called the Selma To Montgomery Voting Rights Trail, and is a U.S. National Historic Trail, protected by National Park Service. Amelia Boynton Robinson, whose image brought international attention to the marches, attended the ceremony at which the Voting Rights Act was signed. At 103 years old, she attended President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this year.

Over the years, the Voting Rights Act has become on of the most important changes to come out of the civil rights movement, truly changing the landscape of American politics. In a shocking reversal, the US Supreme Court struck down several of its provisions in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. One result of this decision is that the state of Alabama re-drew its legislative borders in a way which many contend packs African American voters into as few districts as possible, diluting their voting influence. The Supreme Court has yet to hear an appeal the the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus, although it has agreed to do so. Five other states passed new voting legislation after the Shelby decision which critics contend were designed to suppress voting rights.

The song we chose for today’s post is actually from a few years earlier — John Coltrane wrote it as an elegy for the four girls who were killed by a terrorists bomb in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 16, 1963. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr called the crime “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.”

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.

“Alabama”

Coltrane’s song appeared on his Live at Birdland album, although it was actually recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s New Jersey studio (the album’s first side was recorded at the legendary jazz club). When it was first released, the label accidentally put both two takes of the song on the album, which is why Coltrane’s solo suddenly stops and then there’s a re-statement of the theme.

birdland

Coltrane performed the song in his original intended form on a show produced by National Educational Television (the early version of PBS), Jazz Casual. You could watch the whole episode below, or skip to about 9:35 to hear “Alabama.”

Jeff Daniels

When Dumb and Dumber was produced in 1994, Jim Carrey became the highest-paid comedic actor at the time, earning $7 million for playing the role of Lloyd Christmas. His co-star Jeff Daniels was paid $50,000 for his performance as Harry Dunne, according to a Farrelley Brothers appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last year.

Daniels had been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards by the time, but seemed born to play the role of hapless Harry, who is consistently more good-natured than his best friend, if still as dim-witted. Daniels’ other screen roles up to that time weren’t comedies, however, and like many movie stars of his time his career began on the theater stage.

We at Hymie’s are hardly movie buffs (we’re more ‘record people’) and proof of that is that Jeff Daniels is a favorite actor of ours. He’s an interesting person, though his movies can be a little hit-or-miss. The sixty-year-old actor married his high school sweetheart Kathleen Treado in their hometown of Chelsea, Michigan, where his father was once the mayor. They have three children. And Daniels is the founder and executive director of the Purple Rose Theater Company, based in Chelsea. He has written fifteen plays.

jeff daniels

He’s also recorded four albums, accompanying himself on the guitar, all of which benefit the Purple Rose Theater. The first, Live and Unplugged, opens with the song “If William Shatner Can, I Can Too,” which is a self-depreciating poke at celebrity albums. It also includes a song where he recounts being shot by Clint Eastwood in the film Blood Work, a love song for his wife, and an epic story song about a disastrous road trip in a recreational vehicle, probably inspired by another movie in which he co-starred as a hillbilly who inspired Robin Williams to love his family, or something. You’re probably sensing a pattern here.

Daniels is a fine guitarist, but also once wrote a song called “Forgive me Robert Johnson.” Like so many of the characters he played in the movies (say for instance Rueben Soady from Escanaba in da Moonlight) Daniels is endearingly innocent and silly throughout his albums. Still, he probably shouldn’t quit his day job. It seems to be going pretty well.

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.

“Orville Wright”

Here’s the latest video in our collaboration with Pabst Twin Cities, which features our friends Whiskey Jeff and the Beer Back Band performing “Good Morning Headache” from their upcoming LP.

Brian Herb of Mother of All Music mixed the sound. The video was filmed and edited by Dan Huiting and Lauren Josephine.

How much do we love this awesome band? So much that theirs is one of two LPs our shop will be releasing later this year!

minnesota

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.

“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.

JM

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 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.

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.

“I Am”

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

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.

“Spock’s Theme,” as heard in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

star trek 2Leonard 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.

mr spock music from outer space

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.

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 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!

peggy lee blues cross country

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.

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.

“Going to Chicago”

quintessence

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.

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.

“For Lena and Lenny”

« Older entries § Newer entries »

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.