Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas Letter 2005

Happy Holidays, Friends!

Well, here I sit again, listening to old music and trying to summarize 2005 in fifty words or less, while Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation" quietly adds additional quirky holiday cheer to the glow of the computer monitor...

For those of you keeping score, yes, I made the half-century mark this year. Lora is still a youthful something less than that, as I keep reminding her. She still practices at the Small Animal Hospital at its new location on Milwaukee's Fashionable East Side. I continue to commute to Marlin Technologies in Horicon, and my '93 Toyota surpassed a quarter million miles this Fall. Woo-hoo!

Sarah graduated from Wauwatosa West High School in June, and she started at Lawrence University up in Appleton this September. She's made a great transition to college life, is having lots of fun, has made many new friends, and still finds time to get good grades. Smart kid. Keep that scholarship money coming. She has a very compatible roommate, is playing clarinet and bass clarinet with the symphonic band, has joined the fencing club, works, plays and even writes or phones Mom and Dad once in a while.

Matt turned sixteen in March, and got his driver's license just as soon as Mom and the DMV would allow. Filling a need for people who know what they’re doing in the low brass section, he's playing almost as much trombone as trumpet these days, including pit orchestra for TW's fall musical. He and Sarah both got jobs at Rocky Rococo's last summer, and Matt's continued to work part time during the school year with the understanding that he keep his grades up to the accustomed standard. No problem, so far. Mmm, leftover pizza.

Peter is now a freshman at Tosa West, and is also playing bassoon in the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra again this year. He joined Matt on Stage Crew, building sets and 'running the show' for "Anything Goes". (The Cole Porter show, not the Monty Python song.) Besides the usual X-Box and computer games, he's taken to writing programs for his TI graphing calculator, something I never quite learned to do to a slide rule at his age.

Paddington, our Wheaten Terrier, continues to make sure I get a walk around the block before bed nightly, something that's a little overdue as I exercise my proclivity for run-on sentences on into the night... So, further details, rumours and opinions are available on request. We hope you, too, are staying busy, happy & healthy. We'd love to hear from you!

Dave & Lora

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

November Ends

For no particularly urgent reason, I figured I should post a blog entry some time this month. And since I was logged in updating some links to the left (expanded Blogcritics link even though I haven't found the time to post anything there in a while - updated Fripp and Spoilt Victorian Child URL's - a big welcome back to Marcello Carlin, who writes extraordinarily well and at great length about music I often have not and may never actually hear - et cetera), now is as good a time as any to say nothing much.

The weather is turning wintry, Sarah is nearing the end of Fall term at Lawrence, Peter has been diagnosed with migraines, we got our photo Christmas cards ordered and delivered already, and lots of the usual busy-ness.

I found out that TW's principal, the late Mr. Steiner went to the same high school as me, Brookfield Central, though a few years before I was there. He'll be missed. The first death in the state attributed to West Nile Virus. Presumably his immune system was depressed from anti-rejection drugs from his kidney transplant some years ago. A former boss's forty-something wife died suddenly this month, too. Well, enough on that subject for now... Lora's dad was in the hospital for some tests over the weekend, but he's back home adjusting to his new medications now. Perhaps he just had a little too much turkey.

I didn't mention Matt yet, so I'll note he's still working part time at Rocky Rococo's Pizza, getting good grades, helping out on Stage Crew a lot and killing time on the interweb at every opportunity. I wonder where he gets that tendency?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tom Rapp – Stardancer (1972)

(A Record Review)

After a pair of LP’s for the legendary ESP-Disk label and five for Reprise records, Tom Rapp / Pearls Before Swine landed on little Blue Thumb Records for a final pair of albums in the early 70’s. This is the only album of those nine still never released on Compact Disc anywhere in the world.

From the cover art to the music within, Stardancer revisits much stylistic and thematic territory covered on the previous records, but Rapp succeeds in avoiding the impression of repeating himself. (The concepts of cashing in and selling out presuppose some prior commercial success, so that’s not particularly relevant in this case!)

The title song and “For The Dead in Space” each return to the theme of the doomed space explorer (outer or inner space?) from 1970’s “Rocket Man”, an acknowledged inspiration for Elton John’s song of the same name as well as Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.

You won’t hear “The Fourth Day Of July” on any Country Music station on Independence Day. This is a Nixon-era nightmare of the dead children of Vietnam silently streaming to the White House and the “men who got too far away from what was done in their name” on the title holiday. Acid-Folk Protest, anyone?

“The Baptist” is a lovely tune along the lines of Balaklava's “There Was A Man”, with a touch more Nashville in the sound. Florence Warner’s Emmylou-esque harmony vocal joins Rapp in an allegory of spiritual questing, redemption and loss. “Every day I see old men like mountains and they just crumble and they fall / And I don't know what these days are doing to us all.” “Les Ans” combines a French lyric (see “Mon Amour” - These Things Too) with accompaniment from a string quartet (see “Guardian Angel” - Balaklava). Unfamiliarity with the language is no barrier to enjoyment of this brief love song.

The old-timey ambiance of a shellac 78 touches the jaunty “Why Should I Care”, and “Tiny Song” features a whistling tap dancer, further evidence of the whimsical mind that sent former Boy Scouts an obscene coded message in “Miss Morse” (One Nation Underground) because L-O-V-E just didn’t have the catchy meter of F-*-C-K. (That second letter is dit-dit-dah, by the way!)

Alternately light hearted and thoughtful, love songs make up much of the remainder of this LP. Lyrics such as “If you'd rather talk about it / Than think about it / You better get it together now” and “If I knew myself I'd tell me not to be so silent now” and “Hello Hey - It sure is good to see you” may not have much Nashville Costello single entendre cleverness, but they overflow with warmth and humanity. No wonder Stardancer got no airplay and minimal sales.

It’s a credit to Blue Thumb that they actually released Rapp’s follow-up Sunforest in 1973, but when Blue Thumb disappeared into ABC Records, which got bought by MCA, which eventually got swallowed by one of the mega-conglomerates, Tom determined he’d accomplished what he needed to in the music business and went back to college. His rediscovery and semi-un-retirement several decades later is a story for another day!

Disclaimer - I did not actually listen to this album to write this review. At least, not in the last few years. When Ms. Licky requested some content for a Record Review Page at the Roadhouse, I figured a little more Stardancer verbiage on the web couldn't hurt its chances of someday seeing a polycarbonate re-release. I referred to the fine Pearls Before Swine Connection website to refresh my memory of its contents, but relied mainly on my memory of this great album to fill in the blanks.

The last time I did listen to this album was probably when I bought an 8-track of it on eBay a few years back. Yes, I actually did that, and yes, I have a functioning 8-track player, though it's not plugged into a sound system at present. Anyway, upon playing the tape, I discovered that some previous owner had recorded a Harry Chapin album over two and a half of the four programs on the 8-track cart. Blasphemy! So, I had to rectify that situation. Fortunately, my 8-track deck is a recorder as well as a playback device, so I was able to replace the offending material with properly resequenced Tom Rapp tunes. Pearls Before Swine, indeed.

Anyway, Stardancer is definitely on my list of Top 100 Albums of All Time, often in the Top Ten. So, I need to record this thing to a CD-R Real Soon Now. Along with Sharks' First Water and Nils Lofgren's Back It Up Live on KSAN and Triumvirat's Illusions On A Double Dimple, and the long version of "Bluebird" and the tunes from Last Time Around that Neil left off the Buffalo Springfield Box Set...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Not Exactly A Concert Review

Well, I did go to see Richie Furay in concert last week. Yes, I did. I spent the better part of a month convincing myself that it was a rare opportunity that I should not miss, and while I nearly did, I didn't. The guy's voice is in unbelievably good shape after all these years. He played a few songs from his more recent "Christian" albums, but did a lot of his classic material, including SHF Band, Poco and Buffalo Springfield. Not just the songs he wrote, but Stephen's "Go And Say Goodbye" (which he also covered in Poco) and a whole lot of the Neil songs that Richie sang on the original Springfield LP's. Richie played acoustic guitar, joined by a guy on keyboards, mandolin, banjo and Telecaster by turns, plus a young bassist and a percussionist. Looked like fewer than 100 (predominantly male and middle-aged) people in the club, but those of us smart and lucky enough to be present were, and I believe this is the correct usage of the term, fookin' gobsmacked.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Six Years Ago

Those familiar with the album Lizard by the group King Crimson may find this excerpt from the Fripp online diary interesting. Most others will not, I suppose. When other readers of this page outnumber me, I will give the content of this blog due consideration. For now, this is stuff I'm interested in reading, and since this won't roll around again on the Fripp Calendar again until 2006...
Wednesday 8th. September, 1999

08.20 Simon [Heyworth] & Robert [Fripp] have returned to the terrors of "Lizard". "Indoor Games" now sounds more musical than since it left the studio.

An ace tune well played mixes itself. Difficulties in mixing are commonly the result of poor musical conception and / or performance. An unsolved problem in mixing passes the problem to the mastering engineer. The main technical difficulty in mastering "Lizard" is how to deal with the mellotron. Controlling the mellotron's middle-range screech unsettles the rest of the spectrum. Past solutions to mastering "Lizard" have failed to find a single all-win solution. Simon the Hero, with new technology, is now closer to reconciling the unreconcilable elements of "Lizard" than ever before.

"Lady Of The Dancing Water" is about-to-be-becoming-having-been tickled. Mel's flute playing is so good. "Prince Rupert Awakes" - Rupert would have done better to stay in bed that day. Jon Anderson has sung the unsingable: neither melody writer nor lyricist helped him on this one. An early edition of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (from any good secondhand bookshop) is an essential aid to interpreting the lyrics.

At last! The Bolero! Robin Miller's oboe has entered, left, and Keith Tippett, Mark Charig, Nick Evans & Mel Collins are blowing away. This is the only part of the album I am able to remember with anything other than fear, terror, misery & suffering.

"The Battle", "Lament" & the whirligig of "Big Top" all now recalibrated & fine tuned.

12.15 Hooray! All the tracks ready for glueing together.

In Sum:

Lots of ideas, mostly presented simultaneously and very few of which work. Various bits are unsure whether to try & make connection with a unified central theme, or maintain their independence. Mostly, the search for a unified central theme escapes satisfaction & the constituent elements adopt a semblance of neutrality, so as not to attract culpability for their involvement. Labour & labouring, mostly joyless, strive effortfully to present the appearance of cohesion.

There is one exception: the Bolero. The main theme, played on oboe by Robin Miller (co-principal oboist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Boulez at the time) is a gift. This is a melody which sustained me in difficult times.

Overall, the album is unlistenable. Our remastering shows just how unlistenable. I am unable to recommend that anyone part with their hard-earned pay for this one, unless they want to take it to parties and play it at unwelcome guests. There are some "Lizard" lovers, I know. They must be very strange.

14.08 At 14.00 our final listen-through & hyper-tickling was completed. A huge improvement.

15.22 Simon is now playing the test tones for "Islands". The tape box is marked "Command Studios". This is enough to strike fear into the heart of those that know the name.

Friday, August 19, 2005

August News

The big music news around here (as far as I'm concerned), is that Richie Furay will be doing a concert next month, the day after my birthday, in fact. I never expected another chance to see the guy perform, as semi-retired (from recording) as he's been for the last 20+ years...

The BoDeans were supposed to do a rooftop concert Wednesday night, and some neighbors tried to squash it on account of the noise. Apparently they went ahead and did it anyway. 7 PM is an early enough start, what the heck. Gotta check the newspaper to see how that went down.

Finally, my car reached 250,000 miles Wednesday evening, on North Avenue south of Mayfair. Peter and I were on the way home from hitting a bucket of golf balls out Capitol Drive in Brookfield. I might buy the "Yo" some new brake pads to celebrate.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Marcello Carlin on the Bonzos

Ginger Geezer:
The Bonzo Dog Band ... simultaneously the most savagely unforgiving and most humane of pop bands - certainly the Brit equivalent of the Mothers of Invention, but crucially with a love of humanity replacing Zappa's cynical misanthropy, thus again reminding us of what the latter COULD have achieved with the subtraction of bad jazz-rock and the addition of a heart.

Still waiting for the next successor to Koons Really Does Think He's Michaelangelo, Church of Me, and The Naked Maja...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Copyright Infringement Fun
In 1998, University of Iowa professor Kembrew McLeod trademarked the phrase "Freedom of Expression" and created a zine with that title. He enlisted a friend, Brendan Love, to pose as the publisher of an imaginary punk rock magazine also called Freedom of Expression, whom he then pretended to sue. McLeod hired a lawyer and didn't let her in on the hoax. The lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter to Love:
We represent Kembrew McLeod of Sunderland, Massachusetts, the owner of the federally registered trademark, FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION ... Your company has been using the mark Freedom of Expression ... Such use creates a likelihood of confusion in the market and also creates a substantial risk of harm to the reputation and goodwill of our client. This letter, therefore, constitutes formal notice of your infringement of our client’s trademark rights and a demand that you refrain from all further use of Freedom of Expression.:
Shortly thereafter, the Daily Hampshire Gazette ran an interview with McLeod. He played it straight, telling the paper, "I didn't go to the trouble, the expense and the time of trademarking Freedom of Expression just to have someone else come along and think they can use it whenever they want." Two years later, when McLeod asked to reprint the Gazette article in his book Owning Culture, the paper denied him permission.
(Reprinted without permission...)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Tim Blair - Continuing Crisis in The Bulletin
"The United Nations celebrates its 60th anniversary this month. Mark the occasion in appropriate style by appeasing any neighbourhood dictators, imposing damaging environmental restrictions on local employers, and entering into lucrative oil sales agreements with murderers."

The link to Tim's blog is on the left. Professor Bunyip writes another blog with Tasty Down Under Flavor... Another tube, Bruce!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


I recently found this site, which features recordings of John Cage's 4'33" available for download as both a zipped wav and as a MIDI file. The wav apparently didn't unzip correctly, however, and the MIDI file wants to download a sample it can't find, so I'm not sure I'm hearing it correctly. Anyhoo, I had the idea of converting it to a ringtone and promoting it widely, maybe even selling it on eBay. But since I don't own the copyright to that particular piece of music, I guess I'll just release this particular bright idea into the Public Domain. I still think I'll create my own mp3 file of the thing. I wonder what sort of variable bitrate will give the best fidelity...

"I have nothing to say
and I am saying it
and that is poetry
as I needed it"
-- John Cage

Friday, March 25, 2005

Bassoon & Poetry

"Kitchen-sink sackbutt" by a "master of freak-out free-medieval pervertamento bassoon" and "30 pages of hot gibberish" by polemicist Out To Lunch (aka Ben Watson).
A twin assault pack of scronching reeds and hyper-viper conscious anti-poetry ... OTL's texts written specially for the occasion met Becks's medieval snorks & other aromas from his idiosyncratic kitchen-sink sackbutt. Censorship by magazine editors, radio ethics and the authorial Ego were evaded in a real-time in-fest of automatic critico-poetic effusion ...

Very interesting texts, it's a pity there's no audio recordings. I wonder if I could talk Peter into blowing some bassoon improv into a microphone?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Robert Fripp on Colin Blunstone
(...and Paul Buckmaster?)
Monday 25th. January, 1999

Hooray! At long last Colin Bluntstone(sic)! His recent CBS compilation Some Years (from Colin's three solo albums) has seven tracks from One Year (1971). He is probably best known as the singer with The Zombies. I have been waiting to hear again 'Say You Don't Mind' for years (Paul Buckmaster the arranger?). And 'Misty Roses'!

Sometimes pop speaks to the place where we are all the same person; where a simplicity of form allows only sufficient time to say what has to be said, and say it directly. There is no room to miss the point, or lose focus. 'Say You Don't Mind' has now played repeatedly, and quite changed my state.

I bought this compilation last year, and have a similar fondness for it.

But All Music Guide says Chris Gunning is responsible for the string arrangements on the first LP. Tony Visconti is listed as an arranger, too. Hmm. Going back to the original sleeve seems called for. Buckmaster's impressive (if easily mistaken for "overblown" by those disinclined to soak them in) string arrangements did have a large part in making Elton John's eponymous breakthrough LP the unique classic that it remains.

Blunstone's first LP is acknowledged as the best of the three, but some fine tunes grace Ennismore and Journey as well. I'll admit to having an immediate negative reaction to the King's Singers backing vocals on the latter, but somehow, it really works on "Beginning"/"Keep The Curtains Closed Today". The madrigal-ish vocals wrap impressionistically around Blunstone's ethereal voice and a lone nylon string guitar, making a beautiful, wistful, romantic whole. For me, a major Guilty Pleasure on a par with the Moody Blues' Most Overblown Cosmic Romanticisms.

Anyway, continuing to cut 'n paste just cuz it's there:
John Payne of L.A. Weekly came to interview me at 14.00. He began by apologising for the description of Crimson as 'prog rock pond-scum set to bum you out' (announcing our three nights at the Beverly Wilshire in 1995). But how could anyone be offended by such a dopey moniker? We adopted it as our own, and raised it on flags. John is concerned with the current state of the mainstream record industry. This is a debate worth having in the media, but inevitably the interlocking nature of business in the US will provide its own problems when the debate becomes public. Like, mainstream companies don't tend to advertise in papers which criticise their fundamentally exploitive nature.

And exciting news from Crafty Patrick Shuleit, who works for Washburn guitars. He has persuaded a firm to manufacture the design of picks we use in Guitar Craft. Perhaps tomorrow afternoon I'll get to fondle the test batch, in the privacy of my hotel room.

I believe this quest for the Perfect Pick never did come out entirely satisfactorily. A unique shape, feel and variable flexibility is required, and, apparently, difficult to reproduce. For myself, I've been using the lighter gauges of Dunlop's nylon picks lately, switching to heavier gauges when cranking up the distortion. But, I mostly have need of cleaner tones these days, albeit disguised with chorus, flanger or phaser effects (70's Telecaster Custom through a Roland Cube 30)...

Friday, January 07, 2005

Poultry In Motion

I still get a comment from this October 2003 Blogcritics post about "Chicken Fat" e-mailed to me every now and then. If the refrain "Go, You Chicken Fat, Go" brings back fond (or horrific) memories from your childhood, you may want to follow the linkage for a Blast From The Past.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Lost And Found

Nth of Pril has returned to a new location. I should update my link before this post scrolls off. Should be easy to do, as seldom as I write anything here! Coincidentally, Deep Purple's cover of Cream's "I'm So Glad" just came up on the CD player...

Also, the final Wigu comic has been posted. I recommend you follow the link to the left and read the entire archive, then order copies of the books and whatever merchandise they got what strikes your fancy. Then, send me the books when you're done reading them. Thanks!