Sunday, June 28, 2009

John Lennon in Tennessee...?

A couple weeks ago I visited Nashville, Tennessee to participate in a recording session at Ricky Skaggs' studio.  Ricky, an endorsee of PRS guitars, was vacating the space to Paul Reed Smith himself (who is the reason why we made it out to Tennessee in the first place), so I was not actually able to immerse myself in any Bluegrass music.  However, I was able to catch a glimpse of what Bluegrass is all about by the adornments on the studio walls:  black and white shots of legend Bill Monroe, fading, nostalgic images of the Grand Ole Opry, and promotional flyers of the Skaggs family band (with Ricky as the 4-year-old mandolin prodigy). Amidst these relics, I spotted a picture of Johnny Cash that caught my interest.  Ricky related the story to me of how the night of John Lennon's death in 1980, Johnny Cash was in New Zealand and wanted to make a tribute to Lennon.  Cash put on glasses, gathered flowers and told photographer Marty Stuart to take a picture of him through the peephole of his hotel room.  It's certainly an interesting picture, but I'm still trying to figure out what he meant by it...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wu Tang Design Remix Project

As a Blue Note enthusiast, I cannot help but gush with excitement at Logan Walker's re-conceptualization of Wu-Tang Clan Albums in homage of Blue Note Records' artistic vision.  Besides being the juggernaut of the most prized jazz recordings, spanning from the early '40s until the mid '70s,  Blue Note also revolutionized the idea of an album cover and its marriage to the music, thanks to contributions from Reid Miles and Francis Wolff.  These two men transformed the album cover into a piece of artwork, something that stood on its own to translate be-bop sentiments into a visual form.   Reid Miles' choice of colors, tone, font, and graphic design provide the foundation of the Blue Note aesthetic, that sense of modernity & motion clashing in a world steeped in tradition.  Wolff, on the other hand, was an incredible photographer, able to capture the power and energy of hard-bop drummer Art Blakey while also having the ability to materialize John Coltrane's musical piety and wonderment.  Admiring Logan's recreations reminds me that their work still has an identifiable presence, yet at the same it also points out the current, diminished role of the album cover.  For more Wu-Tang pictures, click here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

'Living for the City'--Brooklyn/Miscellaneous Photos Part II


         One aspect of my trip that I didn't touch on in my last NYC post was that it mainly revolved around visiting different record stores--I'd estimate eight in total.  The best part about New York record stores is that they're all boutique and intimate, which is conducive to the type of experience I want when I walk into a store.  Amoeba Records in LA is a remarkable institution, with its expansive catalogue of musics and memorabilia, but one has to understand the distinguishing features between Amoeba and a place like Big City on 12th and B Avenue.  Now don't mistake this for a lack of interest, because I can (and do) spend hours at a time surveying each section at Amoeba, but I have this OCD issue where anytime I walk inside I have to rummage through EVERY section and genre.  Because if I don't I'll feel as though I could have missed that "gem" hidden in some obscure corner.  I think the best way to describe what I'm feeling is to compare it to concert venues: there are small and large, and each one uniquely shapes the listener's sonic relationship with the musicians.  A place like the Baked Potato thrives because of the intimacy created by the spatial relationship the audience has with the players--one would want to see Lindsey Buckingham's solo acoustic playing in a small setting that feeds on the gentleness of his aura.  On the otherhand, Van Halen would not be the ideal band for the Baked Potato, but would be better suited for the Staples Center, a venue that could help sustain that big sound.  It just depends on what the musicians are aiming for and what type of dynamic space they wish to create.  The record shops in NYC revive that sense of local tradition, like something out of High Fidelity, where the guy behind the counter will take you around the store and suggest things you might enjoy.  And for me the best part was simply being able to talk to the different shop owners, which eventually opened avenues to share and learn new music interests.  

Here are some more miscellaneous pictures from Brooklyn: Wax Poetics headquarters (my favorite music publication, and am currently in the process of submitting an article), a wedding along the Brooklyn Bridge, and the line to Grimaldi's Pizza (considered to be the best in New York and rivals the other Brooklyn hallmark, DiFara's).  

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Who/Mod Culture

This is a video clip of The Who when they were known as The High Numbers in the nascent stage of their career.  The first song, “Ooh Poo Pah Doo”, is a R&B cover by New Orleans based singer Jessie Hill while the second tune, “I Gotta Dance to Keep from Crying” is a Motown single from the Miracles, featuring Smokey Robinson.  I’m not really sure why I feel compelled to post this, but I guess it’s because for a group of four white dudes I find their rendition soulful and gritty.  And if you don’t think the covers are irresistibly catchy like I do (considering they are proto-funk/boogie songs), the mod dance scene is certainly a phenomenon to observe.  You can also notice the beginnings of Pete Townshend’s windmill drive, John Entwistle’s jazzy, harmonically complex bass licks, and Keith Moon’s provocative drumming.