Archive for June, 2012

Duke: A Life in Caricatures

Edward Kennedy Ellington probably did more for American music -and popular music- than anyone. Marrying classical arrangements to the horn movements of Sousa, to the rhythm of blues and field chants and work calls, he made the idiom that we call popular American music: everything before that was disparate and regionalized; everything afterward owes him a giant debt. People may not be able to immediately see what might marry the earliest recordings of just one person’s lone voice to the lushly produced and hilariously Auto-Tuned product of today, but there is a link, and that was Duke Ellington. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today.

He was another one spoken of largely in superlatives by his peers, even while he was alive. So what do you do with that?  It must, as all things occasionally do, become a comic strip of itself. And there’s that other thing about how black people at the time (the time period in American history between the late 1920’s and the early 1970’s) were viewed: even the most talented among them -no matter how many people felt otherwise- needed to be treated as some sort of amusing thing that we can hold at arms’ length.  Am I reading too much into this one? Maybe.

(In fact, here’s all of the covers as compiled by someone on the ellingtonweb.ca site. Worth looking at.)

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posted by Rich Bachelor in Jazz and have Comments Off on Duke: A Life in Caricatures

Possibly the Worst Album Cover of All Time

Sue Saad and the Next have an odd story to tell. Well, let’s start with that name. The unavoidability of the word “sad” in the lead singer’s name sort of leads you to a place where it sounds like her name is an insult: aw, yer just a Sad Sue.

And then there’s The “Next”. Sounds like Life Itself wants to move on: ” Well, here’s Sue, and her band,  uh-” “Next!”

Best of all, what information one may find about them on the internet is exactly what one would assume about a band with a name like that. They are sometimes derided as a “one hit wonder,” though the further one looks, the less evidence there seems to be of their ever having had a hit. They appear to have suffered from there already being a Pat Benatar and a Blondie in the world, and the world was largely indifferent to a underwhelming hybrid of the two. The highest they ever rose on the charts was #131st.

There’s even a really sad fan page run by their one remaining fan, but that’s the internet: there’s something on there for everyone, and if you say one bad word about someone you’re pretty sure everybody hates, you stir up the hornet’s nest of the final hardliners who are defending the good name of, Farrah Fawcett, say.

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posted by Rich Bachelor in One Hit Wonders and have Comments Off on Possibly the Worst Album Cover of All Time

Frank Sinatra: Hat Wearer

To try to even talk about Frank Sinatra is futile. Even while he was alive, people more or less only talked about him in superlatives, and that was when it wasn’t Frank Himself doing so. We need to narrow the field.

So let’s talk about how well he wore hats. Indeed, Bill Zehme‘s awful Frank bio was titled The Way You Wear Your Hat , but that was quoting the first line from “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” a song Frank did beautifully. Once Frank started to go bald, he -like every man in his generation- still lived in a time when to be a man was to wear hats. Maybe just one iconic hat, maybe a garage-full of them. Frank had god-knows-how-many, and while I’m tempted to say that you can tell a good Sinatra album from a bad one by whether or not he’s wearing a hat on the cover, I can’t say that because it isn’t true.

Ghostly Frank is intrigued!

1957’s ‘A Swingin’ Affair!’ is a great Frank hat shot. And a great album:  albums still hadn’t truly started being viewed as  cohesive pieces of art yet. It was generally (in those days) still a collection of singles and that’s it. But most of the songs on Sinatra releases seem to have been selected specifically for the theme of the album. It hangs together like a novel, or a movie; the kind of thing people would come to expect of an album, by the time the 60’s were over.

That said, look at how the technology is sort of failing the artist here. Over a nicely realistic shot of guys n’ gals -swingin’, like they should be- Frank looms weirdly and transparently. He doesn’t cancel out the young swingers, nor is he translucent. Worst of both worlds.

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posted by Rich Bachelor in Lounge and have Comments Off on Frank Sinatra: Hat Wearer

Cool Album Covers Looks At Crew Shirts

Special Edition: Cool Album Covers Looks At Crew Shirts. Hosted by Rich Bachelor and Mark Mager. Local (rock and roll) stagehands are often given t-shirts upon load out, by the bands to say thanks and also as a means to determine which department the stagehand is in. Rich and Mark (who participate as local stagehands) give commentary on some of the shirts they’ve received from bands over the last couple years. Included:

Crowded House, Melissa Etheridge, Flaming Lips, The Fray, Alan Jackson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Microsoft Company Meeting, Jason Mraz, Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Miller, Trans Siberian Orchestra.

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posted by mark in PodCasts and have Comments Off on Cool Album Covers Looks At Crew Shirts