Archive for August, 2013

Here’s The Truth About Dylan’s “Another Self Portrait”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 31, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Over the course of the last several weeks, we’ve read a good deal of magical — and wishful — thinking about the release of Bob Dylan’s Another Self Portrait.  If the rock critters who currently are claiming the two-album compilation of various outtakes, stripped-down tracks, and unreleased gems are to be believed, then the producers have turned water into wine, coal into diamonds, and gold has been alchemically created from base metals via a Philosopher’s Stone recently discovered in the archives of Columbia Records.

For here is the truth, at least as we see it.  The three most interesting periods in Dylan’s long career are 1) the genius stretch from Bringing It All Back Home through the ’65 tour and Blonde On Blonde; 2) The Basement Tapes; and 3, that mature eruption of late-innings creativity best summarized by The Bootleg Series Volume 8: Tell Tale Signs, which includes songs from 1989’s Oh Mercy to 2006’s Modern Times.  Of all the various periods in Dylan’s half-century of astonishing creativity, the batch of records ranging from John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline to New Morning — and including the acknowledged dreck that was most of Self Portrait — is, if not the least satisfying run of albums (you’d probably have to bracket the 1980s period preceding Oh Mercy for that), then let’s call it for what it is: a comparatively weak, uncertain detour in what is otherwise a straight shot from Greenwich Village to artistic Valhalla.

We were mystified, as a teenager, by Self Portrait, especially given how much amazing music was happening at that moment, from the Beatles and Stones to hippy caravans with their saddlebags stuffed with all the Mad Dogs, Englishmen, and nascent Zeppelins.  So to come out now, with what admittedly are some fine, lost Dylan songs, and make a claim, as some have, that this tumultuous period in Dylan’s amazing output is on the same aesthetic level as his best is, let’s face it, hooey.   Given the famous Greil Marcus opener in the Rolling Stone review of Self Portrait — “What is this shit?” — we could say the same now about a fair bit of the hyperbole over this set of songs.

Except, except, there is this: the great Mikal Gilmore’s marvelous cover story in the new Rolling Stone captures the historical moment in what reads to us like pitch perfect balance.  He makes no claims for the songs in the new album other than that they provide perspective lost in what was the official output of the day.  And by ratcheting down the hype, he enabled us calmly to listen to both CDs of the newly found stuff, and to find the gems sprinkled among them.  This is absolutely worth your time and money, even if the whole period of Dylan’s output — as influential as it was, shaking rock music from its jittery psychedelia to the more solid, stripped down country and blues that, in the Stones’ case, would lead to Beggars Banquet, and which would inspire the Byrds to consort with Gram Parsons — was neither as interesting as what came before it, nor as exciting as what was to come.

And then there is this: if you pony up for the box set, it arrives  with the entirety of the Isle of Wight concert recorded on this very day 44 years ago.  Picture the scene: Dylan has skipped the Woodstock Festival in his backyard two weeks previously, flown to England with The Band, and he performs his first concert in four years before a crowd of 200,000, which includes various Beatles and Stones.  And the set he performs, as we now know from hearing the whole thing, ranks as one of the greatest-ever Dylan live recordings.  For all the reports that he was nervous and ragged during this concert, with the fullness of time he sounds relaxed and loose and confident.  He sings in that glottal, Johnny Cash-inspired voice we recognize from “Lay Lady Lay” — in fact, the version of “Lay Lady Lay” is worth the wheel barrow of money you have to pay to get the box set, with this CD — and all in, there may never be as strong a live vocal performance by Dylan that you’ll ever be able to buy, and yes we have the Rolling Thunder Review material.  This live set has none of the jittery, amphetamine punch of ’65 set with The Band, and is wholly more satisfying in sound than the Before The Flood set from ’74.  This live album is pure genius, wholly satisfying, a revelation.

Wait, What’s That Moving Behind The Hedge?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 29, 2013 by johnbuckley100

And why does only one other person seem to notice? Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph.

Headdress

Two New Albums By Capsula and Crocodiles Each Extend The Late Summer Rock’n’Roll Party

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2013 by johnbuckley100

We hadn’t been paying close enough attention to the happenings of one of our favorite bands, Capsula, to have gotten the word that Tony Visconti was producing their new album, Solar Secrets, which came out earlier this week.  What a great pairing!  Visconti, of course, is the producer of several of Bowie’s best albums, including this year’s The Next Day, and Capsula are such Bowie fans, last year they put out a note-perfect replica of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.  Now, unfortunately, we viewed that homage to Bowie as something of a misstep, an unfortunate career detour, but happily, with the excellent Solar Secrets, they are back on the strong form exhibited in 2011’s In The Land Of The Silver Souls, which we ranked as the #4 best album of the year, and which caused us to ask whether Capsula is the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world.  Based on Solar Secrets, they are still in contention for such an honor, even if it is not as spectacular as 2006’s Songs & Circuits, which we consider perhaps the finest punk rock album of the Aughts.

If you don’t know Capsula, drink deep from this nutshell: An Argentine band that played animalistic punk rock while scratching at the tree of South American psychedelica, they moved to Bilbao a decade ago, viewing Europe as a better staging point for world domination.  Since then, they’ve only put out three of the most thrilling records of our age, which given the albums they put out in Buenos Aires prior to emigration, gives them, by our count, eight excellent long-players.  They’ve gone from singing in Spanish to singing in English, though on Solar Secrets, Visconti has them singing in Spanglish.  But even if you’re bilingual, you don’t listen to Capsula for the words — you listen to hear a band that sounds like the finest Cali punks from the ’80s occasionally dial up the rocket boosters to propel listeners into deep space.  This is not their very best album, but it is a great place to begin, if you’ve yet to get hip to their cross-Atlantic trip.

We’d missed the earlier records by the San Diego band Crocodiles, but oh brother, Crimes Of Passion is so everlasting yummy we are willing to put it up on our current roster of California Hall of Famers including Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, and Mikal Cronin.  We can understand why there have been comparisons to the Jesus and Mary Chain, but while such references usually refer to a band fuzzing up a Velvets’n’Beach Boys sound, this reference is different: singer Brandon Welchez sounds a fair bit like Jim Reid, and in context, it does harken to JAMC at their most tuneful.

On Crimes of Passion, Crocodiles throw the Jesus and Mary Chain, Between The Buttons-era Stones, and the garage rock of the Fleshtones into a blender and the result is a Big Gulp smoothee of the best rock’n’roll of the year.  If you’re keeping score at home, this is a band to put money on, as the odds are great you’re going to be hearing about them again when the Tulip Frenzy jury goes into deliberations for our 2013 Top Ten List.  They’re that good.  And between Crimes of Passion and Capsula’s Solar Secrets, we’re reaching for our headphones and the SPF 50, hoping to extend the summer for a few more weeks.

Scenes From The 50th Anniversary Of The Dream Speech

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 28, 2013 by johnbuckley100

All photos Leica M and 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph.

Stars and Stripes

There may have been fewer people than there were 50 years ago — the rainy day, punctuated by steam heat, was a discouragement for some.  But it was a pretty great and historic moment.

Three Presidents

 

It was a day for remembering the past and pointing to the future.

Over The Shoulder

 

And for recording the moment for posterity.

maori

 

Everyone seemed to understand the importance of the moment.

Point

 

And in spite of the weather and the long day, people left with smiles on their faces.

Striped Hat

There Also Was A Rally For D.C. Statehood On Saturday

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 26, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Despite this nice woman’s sunny disposition, it was a little overshadowed by a larger cause.  Leica Monochrom, 50mm APO-Summilux-Asph, orange filter.

DC Statehood

Ty Segall Says “Dinner Tastes Better When You Record A Song”

Posted in Music with tags , on August 26, 2013 by johnbuckley100

In a fun interview in the The New York Times, Ty Segall answers the question, “Why have you been so prolific?”

The answer is fun.  “That’s just what I do. Half-needing to do it as an exercise of the mind, and half an exercise of a daily routine. That’s my job. When I was younger, it was more like: ‘I don’t know how long I’m going to be doing it for. I need to do as much as I can, because who knows when my luck will run out?’ It was more like a race, but now it’s different. It’s an exercise, therapy, my daily vitamins, my daily dose, and it’s kind of necessary for my brain. Dinner tastes better when you record a song. Just like when you work a hard day at a job, you know? Dinner’s going to taste better. It’s like any other routine. It’s good for your brain and your body.”

The Seriousness — And Joy — In Yesterday’s March On Washington

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 25, 2013 by johnbuckley100

All photographs Leica Monochrom and 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph.

New Jim Crow

 

To herald its coverage of yesterday’s 50th Anniversary Of The March On Washington, The Washington Post uses one of the most beautiful sentences ever written by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.:  “The arc of moral history is long, but it bends toward justice.”  Along with the ever-present images of Trayvon Martin, it was a reminder of the seriousness of the occasion.

Of The People

 

But yesterday’s march was as much filled with joy as protest.  And there were reminders of how far as a nation we have come in 50 years.

Vacationing With Obama

 

Even as folks hawked photos of icons to the large, friendly crowd.

Photos For Sale

 

For many members of the largely African-American crowd, it was like a family reunion.  It was a really lovely day.

Sorority Sisters

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