USSS: oddbod

Why isn’t oddbod famous? Proof positive that talent and fame are not connected. Tim “oddbod” Conway is one of the finest songwriters and performers I’ve ever heard. His new songs at FAWM turn into a mad rush to comment. A week in, his first song Instamatic has nearly a hundred comments from other songwriters who are supposed to be scrambling to write 14 songs of their own. Continue reading “USSS: oddbod”

Acoustic Lovely Sarah Through the Wall

My Michael Hedges Pandora station has been playing a lovely little harp-like guitar piece for a while. I listen all night so I don’t always check to see who’s doing what. (Okay, sometimes I do. It’s music.)

Continue reading “Acoustic Lovely Sarah Through the Wall”

2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees: All Over the Place

As requested, my random opinionated rant about the 2012 inductees. If this is your first visit, I feel compelled to warn you that I write about music I like, and when I have a reason to write about music I don’t like, it’s brief and to-the-point without feeling the need for explanation.

My blog, my rules. So there.

  • Guns & Roses—Not a fan. It all feels so angry. I’ll get arguments on this one.
  • Red Hot Chili PeppersAirplane and Dani California are huge fun. Otherwise, not a fan.
  • Donovan—Can’t even say his name without a visceral reaction of joy. While the rest of popular music was turning angry and antisocial, he was singing songs like I Love My Shirt and Atlantis and Wear Your Love Like Heaven. And don’t forget his rock, and I don’t mean folk-rock. I mean Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (later in this band called Led Zeppelin; you may have heard of it) on Hurdy Gurdy Man and psych-guitarist Jeff Beck on Barabajagal, one of the strangest blistering weird rockers of the era. Finally, the version of Catch the Wind from his Greatest Hits is the primary track on the heartbreaking soundtrack of my youth. There is no finer song about unrequited love. (Alas, the best version only appears on the vinyl version of the album; all others have the original acoustic version which is less powerful by far.)
  • Laura Nyro—A songwriter’s songwriter, tragic early death, yet I’ve never made an emotional connection to her songs.
  • The (Small) Faces—Two iterations of the group, fronted first by Steve Marriott, then by Rod Stewart. Marriott doesn’t get his due today; his vocal on Humble Pie’s 30 Days in the Hole is a match for anything Rod ever sang in his famous raspy drawl (which I also love, by the way.)
  • Beastie Boys—In retrospect, I see they were in the vanguard of something big. Back then, I though they were a parody . . . I just couldn’t figure out, of what?
  • Freddie King—You’re not a rock guitarist if you can’t play Hide Away. In true blues fashion, King stole it from a muddy blend of others, who had nicked it elsewhere and no one really knows who wrote it. The parts you recognize were borrowed from King’s arrangement later by Ted Nugent and others. Clapton and Beck both list Freddie among their influences.
  • Don Kirshner—One night when I was supposed to be in bed, I discovered that you could watch rock and roll on television. (Hey, I was born in the woods in Wisconsin; we didn’t even have a television then.) Seeing people I’d heard on the radio actually doing what they did . . . I was mesmerised. Kirshner also helped bring us The Monkees, which I consider a plus primarily because it gave Nez a launch pad.
  • Cosimo Matassa—Had to look him up, and glad I did. Virtually every R&B recording from New Orleans from the mid-40s to the early 70s came out of one of his studios.
  • Tom Dowd—Engineers getting their due. Real engineers, as in, the man worked on the Manhattan Project before turning to music. You’ll have a hard time finding an album from the 60s or 70s that doesn’t have his name on it. An incomplete list of folks he recorded, produced, or both: Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Eric Clapton and Derek and the Dominos, Allman Brothers Band, Cream, Dusty Springfield, Rod Stewart, Bette Midler, Chicago and the James Gang. In a seminal moment in rock and roll history, Dowd gave Ginger Baker the rhythm that became the core of Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love.
  • Glyn Johns—Okay, if you looked for albums not engineered by Tom Dowd, you found this name. The Eagles’ first three albums, f’rinstance. The Who’s Who’s Next?. Zeppelin’s first album (their 3rd and 4th were engineered by his son Andy. Nepotism FTW.)

I’m more interested in engineering these days, as I finally get serious about recording my first album. I know I have good ears, but I need to train them, and learn more about the equipment. Plan to take a course in recording so I can do my own recording, mixing and mastering on the first album. After that, let’s hope I can turn it all over to the professionals and just do what I love best: write emotionally evocative songs.

Turtles and Tricycles and Tortion

illiam Ackerman’s dreams must be difficult to follow, if they have anything to do with his song titles.I recently found a copy of Ackerman’s first album, “In Search of the Turtle’s Navel” and have enjoyed it almost every night since I bought it. A long-time casual fan of the founder of Windham Hill Records, I’ve lately become a bit more active in my appreciation.

William Ackerman’s dreams must be difficult to follow, if they have anything to do with his song titles.

I recently found a copy of Ackerman’s first album, “William Ackerman's 'In Search of the Turtle's Navel'In Search of the Turtle’s Navel” and have enjoyed it almost every night since I bought it. A long-time casual fan of the founder of Windham Hill Records, I’ve lately become a bit more active in my appreciation.

Originally released in 1975, the album is composed of ten songs written over the period 1970 to 1974. Peopled with such characters as Windham Mary, Jose Pepsi, and the Pink Chiffon Tricycle Queen, and concepts like the second great tortion bar overland of West Townshend, Vermont and a slow motion roast beef restaurant seduction, these guitar solos have more personality than many single-instrument tunes.

While I find the music of Leo Kottke a bit more accessible, Ackerman frequently sounds like Kottke, but with another dimension, another undiscovered room in the mansion of sound. Such is the case with the opening track, and still my favorite, “The Pink Chiffon Tricycle Queen.” Written in 1973, the liner notes claim that this ‘proves once and for all the speed and dexterity are not enough.’ Whatever that means, there are speed and dexterity aplenty in this Kottke-esque romp. There are also those other things implied in the liner notes – quiet passion, delicate nuance, and a complex time signature which comes and goes like a turtle popping in and out of its shell.

It’s not stated explicitly whether Will ever finds the turtle’s navel. He did find a most remarkable guitarist, ‘the guitarist from outer space’, Michael Hedges, coming soon to an Know Your Music entry near you.