Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ken Burns' Vietnam War

Ken Burns' Vietnam War is a towering achievement.  But then again I wouldn't expect anything less from Burns & Co.  It's 18 hours never drags and I still would have been there had it expanded to twenty.  There have been grumblings:  the issue of race among U.S. troops, not enough anti-war speakers on-camera.  But in its expansiveness, much like the war itself, it is moving, frustrating and brutally frank in its on camera depiction of battle.

I had a particular interest in the Vietnam War because my Dad served 3 tours there from 1965-69.  I was born in 1964, so I don't remember much about him coming and going.  But I do remember his last tour in 1969.  Looking out a window and waving goodbye to him at an NCO club in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.  It was the first time I realized what was happening.  He would be gone, but he'd be back.  He always came back.  And he did.

So, the parts of the documentary that covered 65-69 had me glued to see if any video or pictures of my Dad would appear.  It never happened, and I knew it was a long shot, but I was couldn't turn away.

My Dad grew up poor in Pennsylvania.  Straight out of High School in 1951 he joined the Army.  Went right into combat during the Korean War.  When I was young he rarely talked about Korea or Vietnam.  But as he got older he began to open up.  There was often a wistfulness in his recollections of old Army buddies that he still kept in contact with and those that never came home.  Listening to his war stories, I grew to believe that no one can tell me that those scars don't stay with you.

In the last episode there's a segment on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  I wanted my Dad to go there, but he never did.  Still, late in his life a mobile version of the Memorial made its way to our area.  When I asked him if he was going, he said no.  But my teenage son and I went.  Much like the segment in the documentary, I was moved and saddened by amount of names on the Wall.  When I got home and told my Dad about it, he said that he did visit it the same day.

BTW- I should also point out the superb score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  And the inclusion of musical ringers that are always associated with Vietnam:  Simon & Garfunkel, CCR, CSNY, Byrds, Hendrix, Youngbloods, etc.  There are also songs by acts not always licensed:  Fairport Convention, Johnnie Wright's "Hello Vietnam", Link Wray, Nina Simone.  Maybe you never wanted to hear "Bridge Over Troubled Water" again, but the way it's presented will change your mind.

My Dad died a few years later in 2008.  He is now buried (with my Mom) at a Veterans Cemetery in California.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Playlist for 9/29

National - Sleep Well Beast
Jungle Brothers - Straight Out The Jungle
Jungle Brothers -  Done By The Forces Of Nature
Michael McDonald - Wide Open
Nicole Atkins - Goodnight Rhonda Lee
Dusty Springfield - Brand New Me
Bob Dylan - Triplicate
Brown Acid:Second Trip - Various
Heavy Dose of Lyte Psych - Various

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Magazines I Read (Updated 2017)

Below is a lis of Magazines (Print) that I read on a regular basis.  Updated for 2017.

American Songwriter
Bass Player
Big Takeover
Blue Suede News
Blues Revue
Bob Dylan Fanzine Isis  (UK)
Classic Pop  (UK)
Classic Rock  (UK)
Down Beat
Echoes of the Past
Elvis The Man and His Music  (UK)
Empire Magazine  (UK)
Endless Summer Quarterly
Entertainment Weekly
Flashback (UK)
Guitar Player
Guitar World
In These Times
Jazz Times
Jazziz (UK)
Living Blues
Modern Drummer
Mojo  (UK)
Mother Jones
New York Magazine
New Yorker
Now Dig This  (UK)
Oxford American
Prog (UK)
Q  (UK)
Record Collector  (UK)
Rolling Stone
Shindig (UK)
Songlines (UK)
Sports Illustrated
Tape Op
Ugly Things
Uncut  (UK)
Under the Radar
Vanity Fair
Vintage Guitar
Vintage Rock (UK)
Vive Le Rock  (UK)
Wax Poetics
Wire  (UK)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Playlist for 9/22

Queens of the Stone Age - Villains
LCD Soundsystem - American Dream
Sons of the Palomino - s/t
Iron & Wine - Best Epic
Hamell on Trial - Tackle Box
Roots of Drone - Various
Garland Jeffreys - 14 Steps To Harlem
Brian Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain
Brian Eno - Before and After Science

Friday, September 22, 2017

End of Jann Wenner Rolling Stone Era

I first subscribed to Rolling Stone in the summer of 1979.   But I was aware of it before that.  Skimmed through it at bookstores and grocery stores.  Creem and Crawdaddy were also in my sights, but Rolling Stone was king.  The 70's was an incredible decade for the magazine.  It had the best music writers, review section and getting on the cover was a prestige moment.  By the time I subscribed, it was about to undergo changes.  As the 80's moved in, many of the first wave of journalists were gone.  It was still the biggest U.S. music magazine, but it seemed to be missing something.

Those of us who remember those classic 70's issues have struggled with Rolling Stone as it battles the digital age. I still look forward to it.  And I understand the complaints that it became less a music mag than an Entertainment one. But wasn't it doing that in its heyday?  There are still good magazines covering music, but they are all based in the U.K.  Regardless,  I'm not here to bury Jann Wenner's initial vision.  It seems that the ones who are most happy to see the magazine struggling are readers like me, who were reading it back in its prime.  But count me out among the ones happy to bury it.

The fact is that it can still hit a home run with its artist profiles and political coverage.  In the last few years, they wrote up everyone from Merle Haggard to Brian Wilson to Barry Gibb.  They've got good writers still on the rolls:  Rob Sheffield, Brian Hiatt, Andy Greene.  Peter Travers is still reviewing movies and Matt Taibbi is a must-read on politics.

In the end, I'm taking a cautious approach to how this all plays out.  What will a new publisher do with it?  More celebrities on the cover?  Slice the review section even more?  For now my annual subscription renewal continues.  I'm at 38 years and counting as a subscriber.  I'd like to make it to year 40.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

TV Shows I Watch (Updated Fall 2017)

Below is a list of shows I watch throughout the year.  Updated for the Fall 2017 TV season.  All shows are currently airing new episodes.  Cancelled shows or ones that ended their run are not listed.

30 for 30
American Pickers
Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown
Austin City Limits
A Word  (UK)
Better Things
Big Interview w/Dan Rather
Black Mirror
Black Sails
Broad City
Chef's Table
Chewing Gum
Deutschland 83
Difficult People
Documentary Now
Fall (UK)
Fear The Walking Dead
Fleabag  (UK)
Game of Thrones
Gomorrah (Italy)
Grace and Frankie
Graham Norton Show
High Maintenance
Hinterland  (UK)
Horace and Pete
Independent Lens
Iron Fist
Jessica Jones
Lady Dynamite
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Late Night With Jimmy Fallon
Later with Jools Holland
Little Couple
Live from Daryl's House
Luke Cage
Man In The High Castle
Marcella  (UK)
Master of None
Mercy Street
Mindy Project
Mozart In The Jungle
New Girl
One Mississippi
Orange Is The New Black
Poldark  (UK)
Ray Donovan
Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel
Real Time with Bill Maher
Room 104
Santa Clarita Diet
Saturday Night Live
Schitt's Creek
Series of Unfortunate Events
Silicon Valley
So You Think You Can Dance
Stranger Things
Tunnel  (UK)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Vice Principals
Walking Dead

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Playlist for 9/16

Downtown Boys -  Cost of Living
War On Drugs - Deeper Understanding
Steven Wilson - To The Bone
Mojo Presents: I Just Can't Be Happy Today - Various
Link Wray - s/t (1971)
Sonny Burgess - Tennessee Border
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
A.J. Croce - Just Like Medicine
Van Hunt - Popular
Old Dogs - Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare, Jerry Reed, Mel Tillis

Sunday, September 10, 2017

R.I.P. Don Williams

Don Williams may have been the most unlikely Country Superstar of the 70's/80's.  His mellow delivery, which could be traced back to someone like Jim Reeves,  was a steady presence on the Country charts for two decades.  How much of a presence;  17 #1's and 45 Top 10's.
Inducted into the Country Hall in 2010, his steady string of hits showed what a master he was at delivering a great song.  His death is a perfect time to rediscover the many gems in his catalog.

Williams only had one Pop crossover song, 1980's, "I Believe In You", which peaked at #24.

Below are 20 of my favorite Don Williams songs:

1.  I Believe In You
2.  Tulsa Time
3.  Till The Rivers Run Dry
4.  Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good
5.  If I Needed You (w/Emmylou Harris)
6.  Good Ole Boys Like Me
7.  It Must Be Love
8.  Love Is On A Roll
9.  Some Broken Hearts Never Mend
10. Rake and Ramblin' Man
11. If Hollywood Don't Need You
12. Ties That Bind
13. Love Me Over Again
14. I've Been Loved By The Best
15. I'm Just A Country Boy
16. I Wouldn't Want To Live If You Didn't Love Me
17. That's The Thing About Love
18. Lay Down Beside Me
19. Back In My Younger Days
20. Listen To The Radio

Playlist for 9/10

Randy Newman - Live (1971)
Randy Newman - Songbook Vol. 3
Neil Young - Hitchhiker
Gregg Allman - Southern Blood
James Luther Dickinson - I'm Just Dead, I'm Not Gone: Lazarus Edition
Ray Wylie Hubbard - Tell The Devil
Rolling Stones - Some Girls (Deluxe Edition)
Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott - Crooked Calypso
Wayne Shorter - Native Dancer
Stan Getz - Captain Marvel
Joe Henderson & Alice Coltrane - Elements

Monday, September 04, 2017

2018 Rock Hall Nominee Predictions

Last year's bountiful 19 nominees excited many long time Rock Hall watchers.  But will the NomCom do it again?  The average is usually around 15 or 16 names, but the response to that super-sized ballot was so positive, I think they'll come close to it again.  So, I settled on 19, as well.  I mean, who knows what they'll do? It's the mystery of the NomCom that keeps us intrigued.  A lot depends on how many new NomCom faces show up for the annual nomination meeting, and push their picks, which turn out to be the most surprising names imaginable (Bad Brains, Jane's Addiction, Steppenwolf).

Outside of one newly eligible name and a handful of returnees from last year's ballot, the rest is indeed wide open.
Easy to look at past nominees as a blueprint for who the NomCom picks, but the fun is predicting a shocker or two.
Who will be this year's Bad Brains, Jane's Addiction, Los Lobos, Steppenwolf, J.B.'s, Replacements?

Bad Company - This might be perceived as a surprise pick, but really shouldn't Paul Rodgers would be a popular pick for many current Hall members.  They're a semi-populist band, and Rodgers is still out there touring with some form of Bad Co.

Cars - I have a feeling they are close to induction.  The NomCom seems to like them as this would be their 3rd nomination in a row.  Last year finished 5th in the fan vote.

Eurythmics - I'm always amazed when I think of artists that have not been nominated.  Eligible since 2006, Annie Lennox is a beloved musician who would do very well first time on the ballot.  Why does the NomCom forget about these types of artists?

Janet Jackson -  Nominated last two years, and I couldn't pass her up for a third try.

Kraftwerk - Interesting.  Kraftwerk have been nominated in 2003/13/15/17.  Which means I should wait until 2019 to predict them.  But there's new NomCom voices.  Maybe they'll break that 2 year gap.

Link Wray - Nominated once in 2014, we know that he has a huge supporter in veteran NomComer Steven Van Zandt.  All a matter of whether he can get Link back on the ballot.

Los Lobos - Nominated once in 2016.  Many think this will be one of those one-nominated wonders (e.g. Replacements, Procol Harum). It seems their chances rest on whether NomCom member Dave Marsh can get them back.

LL Cool J - The biggest Rap male star from the mid-80's to mid-90's.  Thinking most voters have forgotten that and instead think of him as a TV star.  And in December he will become first Rap name awarded with a Kennedy Center Honor. Nominated 3X, last in 2014.

Marvelettes - Just to prove they haven't forgotten about early 60's Pop acts (which they have), the NomCom will pick someone like this 2X nominated group.  Or a newcomer like the Shangri-Las.  Maybe a past multiple nominee like Questlove & Dave Marsh fave, Joe Tex.

Moody Blues -  Because everyone thinks this will happen, it probably won't.  It's the Moody Blues.  It's the NomCom.  That's how pessimistic I remain.

Nina Simone -  There's no question that Simone's profile was raised with the acclaimed 2015 documentary.  But the NomCom has resisted.  This past summer she placed 3 albums in Pitchfork's list of Top 200 of the 60's (including a #5 pick).

Nine Inch Nails - Not nominated last year after being there in 2015/16.  Trent Reznor seems to have been in the Music News quite often in 2017.  So, I think they'll be back this year.

Radiohead - Of all the new 2018 eligible acts, this is my only sure pick.  Critical favorites with a huge fan base.

Roxy Music - A name that has been discussed by the NomCom.  And one of those that you could have sworn was nominated before?  But haven't been.

Smiths -  Having tried Depeche Mode and the Cure, it might be time to go back to this 2X nominee ('15/'16).

Soundgarden -  Death is no fast track to the ballot, which is why I'm not predicting Glen Campbell (but want to). And with Chris Cornell's former Audioslave bandmate Tom Morello, they'll have a vocal supporter in the room.

Spinners - Right, predicting my beloved Spinners.  How original.  But in all seriousness I really wanted to go with the Commodores.  A Populist R&B act, and Lionel Richie is a big name the Hall should love to have on its induction stage.  But I can't forget the Meters and War.  And honestly, I want more R&B in the Hall.  But back to the Mighty Spinners.   Anybody got Cliff Burnstein's number (he was the one responsible at the 2011 NomCom meeting for the Spinners' first nomination)?

Warren Zevon -  David Letterman makes a surprise appearance at the NomCom meeting, says one name, "Warren Zevon", and walks out of the building.  But seriously, this semi-annual singer/songwriter slot could go to a variety of names:  Carly Simon, Carole King, Harry Nilsson, etc.

Zombies - Don't know if having an exhibit of your work at the Hall can help you get back on the ballot.  But the Zombies had one this past Summer.  Nominated in 2014/17 they should still be a favorite for a return.

One of the reasons I hate making the nominee predictions is that I can never make up my mind.  So, let me say that I have a feeling I'm going to kick myself for not predicting the Judas Priest, Rage Against The Machine, J. Geils Band. All names I cut at the last minute.

Other Names I considered:
A Tribe Called Quest
Bon Jovi
Carole King
Depeche Mode
Glen Campbell
Harry Nilsson
J. Geils Band
Joe Cocker
Joe Tex
Judas Priest
Kate Bush
Rage Against The Machine
Todd Rundgren
T. Rex
Willie Nelson

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Playlist for 9/3

Ann Powers - Good Booty (Book)
Ella Fitzgerald - Sings The Johnny Mercer Song Book
Shangri-Las - Leader of the Pack
Ani DiFranco - Little Plastic Castle
Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer - Not Dark Yet
Waxahatchee - Out In The Storm
David Rawlings - Poor David's Alamanack
Odetta - It's A Mighty World
Miriam Makeba - Pata Pata
Don Cherry - Mu First Part
Don Cherry - Mu Second Part

R.I.P. Walter Becker

Steely Dan's discography is not that large.  Nine albums total.  But seven of those came from 1972-80.  To my ears those seven are all great.  The last one, Gaucho, initially got the most tepid reviews, but has proved to be a durable release.

The songs of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen often get characterized as "wry", "sardonic", "sarcastic" and even "thinking man's Rock".  But there was also many heartfelt moments on those albums. They sure covered a lot of ground during their classic period.  Rock, Jazz, R&B.  It's a hell of a catalog.  Too good for the laggard's at the Songwriters Hall of Fame, who have bypassed them a few time.  Interesting fact:  it took them 3 tries to get into the Rock Hall (inducted 2001).

Walter Becker's solo releases are pretty scant.  Only two, and the last one in 2008.  Both of those follow along the lines of Aja and Gaucho.  Jazzier and less Rock than their early 70's releases.  I wouldn't call Becker's 2 albums essential, but they are good enough if you're a Steely Dan fan.

Below are 20 of my favorite Steely Dan songs plus 3 from Walter Becker:

1.  Rikki Don't Lose That Number
2.  Reelin' In The Years
3.  Hey Nineteen
4.  Do It Again
5.  Any Major Dude Will Tell You
6.  Peg
7.  Pretzel Logic
8.  Dirty Work
9.  Deacon Blues
10. Kid Charlemagne
11. Black Cow
12. FM
13. Any World
14. Doctor Wu
15. Babylon Sisters
16. Black Friday
17. Josie
18.  King Of The World
19.  Fez
20.  Cousin Dupree

Walter Becker solo:
1.  Junkie Girl
2.  Down In The Bottom
3.  Circus Money

Friday, September 01, 2017

Van Morrison Top 20 Songs (Poll)

The latest poll I voted on was for Van Morrison.  Talk about a huge discography.  Tough to cover the 60's-10's in 20 songs.  But this is a good look at a deep catalog.

1.  Moondance
2.  Brown Eyed Girl
3.  Gloria
4.  And It Stoned Me
5.  Domino
6.  Into The Mystic
7.  Wild Night
8.  Warm Love
9.  T.B. Sheets
10.  Caravan
11.  Wavelength
12.  Crazy Love
13.  Here Comes The Night
14.  Tupelo Honey
15.  Sweet Thing
16.  Bright Side Of The Road
17.  Real Real Gone
18.  Have I Told You Lately
19.  Jackie Wilson Said
20.  Someone Like You

Top 5 Albums
1.  Moondance
2.  His Band And The Street Choir
3.  Astral Weeks
4.  Into The Music
5.  Tupelo Honey

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