Sunday, February 20, 2011

Worth Revisiting: Simon and Garfunkel-Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

It's hard to write pretty songs without going over the ledge into triteness. Simon and Garfunkel did it well, especially on this album. This song, especially the last verse, reminds me of the Kurt Vonnegut line;"Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be." It's not a coincidence that one starts connecting their lyrics with other writers, because the songs are so literate. One is reminded that it was possible to be literate and popular back in the day. Now it's a lot of gaga that captures the popular imagination.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Grammys and Me

Last night, I finished Janet Malcolm's excellent biography of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. It's not so much a biography in the conventional sense, but rather an exploration of a long-term relationship through investigative journalism and close reading of text. It was around eleven in the evening when I finished the book. I was ready for a late night snack and a little TV to lighten the mind before bed. As I flipped through the channels, I came across the Grammy Awards show. At first, I didn't realize it was the Grammys, because Arcade Fire was performing. What were they doing on the Grammys?

My impression of the Grammy Awards was formed at an early age. My first and strongest memory of the show was watching Christopher Cross win multiple Grammy awards. Even as a 15-year old I could recognize the artistic black hole that was Christopher Cross. No doubt I was a pretentious 15-year old given to reading Esquire magazine (when it was good) and pretending to enjoy European films. But this wasn't about being pretentious. How could anyone recognize "Sailing" and "Ride Like the Wind" as artistic achievements? Sure, the songs are pleasant enough as long as you don't have a strong reaction to insipid shit. From the perch of a teenage music-snob-in-waiting, the Grammys represented the worst in American culture--a celebration of the middle-brow, uninspiring, and money-making facets of "art". Since the Christopher Cross awakening, the Grammys have been the subject of mockery and derision from me.

It turns out Arcade Fire was on the Grammys because The Suburbs had been nominated for album of the year (see previous post where I laud the album). They were competing against Eminem, Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum (who I had never heard of), and Lady Gaga (I think). All I was thinking was, God I hope Arcade Fire loses. Then all would be okay in the world. Of course, Arcade Fire won, which immediately brought on an existential attack. I kept thinking, the joke's on me, the joke's on me, the joke's on me. I'm not sure what that meant, but it wasn't a good feeling.

So, the only conclusion is the Grammys have changed or I have changed. Perhaps both. I'll be listening to The Suburbs again soon to begin my evaluation. Now about my favorite album of 2010, the Black Keys' Brothers, winning the Grammy for best alternative rock album... Shit... the joke's on me again, the joke's on me, the joke's on me...

Sam Rivers

Thanks, Stoner, for turning me on to Sam Rivers. I've been playing Contours pretty much every day for a week. It's a used out-of-print CD on the BN Connoisseur label. I've been hesitating buying other Rivers albums because the only ones that are available are RVG Editions, which are not very good from a sonic perspective. As luck would have it, I came across this Mosaic box set (CDs again) of The Complete Blue Note Sam Rivers Sessions. It was expensive, but totally worth it to hear this excellent music in the best possible (digital) sound quality. I'll be on the lookout for vinyl copies, especially of the Impulse titles, which I haven't heard yet.

Before my Sam Rivers binge, I'd been listening to a lot of Ornette Coleman, Jackie McLean, and Grachan Moncur III. So, Rivers is a logical extension of those fine, exploratory musicians.