Friday, January 29, 2010
As this is a blog of the obscure, there's no point going into detail on the tremendous influence of one-hit wonder J.D. Salinger (January 1, 1919 – January 27, 2010). His famous first novel has led people to life-changing decisions, from naming their kids after Holden (as Dennis Miller did), to committing an assassination.
For some, "Catcher in the Rye" was the first time a book assigned by a teacher actually meant something. This was especially true in the 50's and 60's when books containing bad words like "goddam" and "Chrissake" were few, and the role models for young boys were The Hardy Boys or Chip Hilton...upstanding fellows never depressed, hostile, or casting an eye on prostitutes.
There were books about growing up before and since ("Huckleberry Finn" and "Portnoy's Complaint" among them) that have, and still do influence us, but nothing quite like that one. The book still sells an estimated 250,000 copies a year because people are still as alienated and pissed off with "phonies" as Holden, and because "Goddam" is still censored on television. Listen for how it's censored to "damn" any time a guest uses that word in a conversation with Letterman or Ferguson (or any of the others).
You all know what happened when the "chords of fame" resonated for Salinger. He gradually turned into a recluse. With big royalties, he was the rare author who didn't need a full-time day job. Instead, he spent much of his time becoming enraptured in, and then chucking, every possible spiritual and scientific teaching from Judaism to Dianetics, and from yoga to orgone therapy, and proving pretty difficult to live with. He may not have wanted people around him, but a good bedmate? You bet. Several of those. "Jerry" continued to write, annotating which items might be worth publishing after his death.
The few times Salinger turned up in the news was when he had to defend his intellectual property, something that Internet fans and the uneducated can't understand. Copyright was as passionate with him as his privacy. When someone decided to make a book out of letters he'd politely written to friends and colleagues, Salinger had his lawyer stop it. The court ruled the letters were still his property and ignored the bilge about "fair use" or "public domain" or "creative commons." In 2009, old but still feisty, Salinger fought with an obnoxious Swede who had decided to call himself "J. D. California" and write a book pirating the Holden Caulfield character.
Salinger appreciated the compliment of so many authors inspired by him. Philip Roth may have used Salinger's first person technique but "Portnoy's Complaint" was an original book. Likewise, Sammy Walker's song "Catcher in the Rye" is obviously paying homage to the influence of Holden Caulfield and J.D. Salinger, but using it to make an individual statement.
And since most everyone's heard of "Catcher in the Rye" the book, but not "Catcher in the Rye" the song...here's the latter, serving as a tribute to Mr. Salinger, as an introduction to Sammy Walker, and as an example of how great art can influence others to be thoughtful and creative.
SAMMY WALKER - CATCHER IN THE RYE
Two of the most famous songs that people don't like too much, are "Yellow Submarine" and "Love Story." They both figured in the obit of Erich Segal.
Segal's death on January 17th was not well-covered, not even with the awful back story of him spending the past 25 years dealing with Parkinson's disease. He was an interesting guy...while he got a lot of money and fame via high profile pop culture screenplays ("Love Story" and "Yellow Submarine") he translated Greek plays and taught at Harvard and Yale. But that's not why you're here. Illfolks is a music blog. You can go read an obit on the guy elsewhere. Here's where you'll download an appropriately annoying version of "Yellow Submarine" and a strange cover of "Love Story," and ponder the odd way that familiarity breeds contempt.
"Yellow Submarine" is in nobody's Top 20 of Beatles songs. First, it was sung by Ringo. Second, you resent how catchy it is, don't you? Third, after a few listens, you've realized it makes no sense at all. We do NOT all live in a fucking yellow submarine, nor would we want to. The song is, in a word, inane. And yet for decades now, we've accepted it, sang along to it, and put up with Ringo flogging it to death on his "All Starr" tours. That's ill, folks!
There are plenty of annoying versions of the song (besides Ringo's) but you can't go wrong with "El Submarino Amarillo" from El Mustang, sung in Spanish, the official language of California.
As for "Love Story," everybody hated it like they hate Hallmark cards. Except people love to get Hallmark cards, and when the movie version of "Love Story" was concocted, it was calculated that a hit theme song needed to be sweet, in a sorrowful minor key, and have a simple melody that could even be sold via music boxes. While vocal versions add some awe to the awful, let's go with Harold "Curly" Chalker's lap steel guitar version, which is haunting in every possible way. Chalker, by the way, was a great session man who navigated between jazz, country and rock, and even turned up on "The Boxer" for Simon and Garfunkel. We remember you, Curly! Why, soitanly! And goodbye, Erich Segal.
YELLOW SUBMARINE IN SPANISH Instant download, no captcha codes, porn ads or pop-ups.
LOVE STORY VIA STEEL GUITAR by Curly Chalker
Posted by Ill Folks at 10:44 AM
It's been many a cold, cold winter for Anita Bryant, the singer and "Florida Orange Juice" spokeswoman. Ever since she declared that God didn't create "Adam and Bruce," and began to spout her fundamentalist views on homosexuality, she was effectively blacklisted and driven out of show biz and into the snow. Seems January, mid-winter, is a good time to bring her back, at least so we can hear the reason she became popular in the first place.
Here at the Illfolks blog, where the devil sometimes puts in advocacy, we ask: If people still listen to Richard Wagner's music even though he was a Nazi, and if a lot of real kewl kats love to collect the songs of Charlie Manson, then should there be a ban on something by Anita Bryant?
The reply seems to be yes, keep her blacklisted. Burn, witch, burn. Collector's Choice (ccmusic.com) has only one basic Bryant "greatest hits" collection while most everything from Patti Page or Julie London or even Mitch Miller has been re-issued. PBS hates Anita, too. On recent specials on 50's and 60's music (produced by a gay guy), PBS showed vintage clips of Rosemary Clooney singing "Come Onna My House" and Patti Page's "Doggie in the Window" (are any tunes more revolting and dated?) and invited Gogi Grant to warble live (and still on key) "Wayward Wind." Why wasn't there a vintage clip of Anita singing "Paper Roses" or a "Wayward Wind" variant like the peculiar "Cold Cold Winter?"
The Illfolks answer? Unfortunately for Bryant, being a fundamentalist Christian woman isn't as daunting as being a fundamentalist Muslim woman...one who might conceal a bomb in her burka. Islamic and Muslim fundamentalists speak out against homosexuality (Anita no longer does) and even want gays put to death.
Where's the gay guy throwing a pie in the face of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Nope, the oh-so-brave gay guy who hit Anita picked on a woman who couldn't fight back. After the attack, he stood there waiting for his close-up.
Listen, if you can't get to Ahmadinejad, how about going to the Iranian embassy with a bunch of your gay friends and pulling a scene right out of Laurel & Hardy's "Battle of the Century?" Why not target some obnoxious cleric who gives press conferences to spout anti-gay views? Oh...forgot. Do that, and you'll be living in fear like that Danish cartoonist who drew Mohamed. Some religious fundamentalists you leave alone.
No less a radical than Phil Ochs was delighted when Anita Bryant recorded "The Power and the Glory." Why? Because at the time Bryant was a symbol of pure Americana in a whitebread world where Mitch Miller and Patti Page had hit albums (which are still in print via CD, so don't think middle-of-the-road is dated!) Don't think for a minute that Anita was unaware of what she was singing when she earnestly covered Phil's lyric lines:
"Yet she's only as rich as the poorest of her poor
Only as free as the padlocked prison door."
Illfolks, the blog of less renown, is a compassionate blog. Anita Bryant is not going to be shut out. "So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal."
It seems as wrong for Anita Bryant's good work to be denied listeners as it is for an Adam Lambert to be promoted all over just because he's gay. There are radio stations who play the garbage music of George Michael only because he's openly homosexual. At what point do we shut down a person's art on the basis of personality? Think about it in relation to Michael Jackson, who openly sang anti-semitic lyrics ("Jew Me" is not a "nice" phrase) and who, we are constantly being told, deserves a free pass as a child molester and lunatic because he was The King of Pop. Do you think Roy Orbison was a big fan of Jews? Nope, but that doesn't mean a Jew should boycott Roy's music. Or does it?
In her day, Anita Bryant was the Queen of Pop, right there on the record racks with other American cheese, be it John Gary, Andy Williams or Kate Smith. There's still an audience for her type of music. After all, her big hit "Paper Roses" was covered by Marie Osmond, who still sings wholesome music and religious music to big audiences.
And if you think you got rid of the problem by blacklisting Anita Bryant, and you'll never see a beauty queen win over a crowd with bizarre conservative views, I have just two words for you: SARAH PALIN.
Frozen out of show biz, living in Oklahoma somewhere, is Anita Bryant. But here she is doing what she really did best. A neat companion to Gogi Grant's "Restless Wind," here's Anita Bryant and her "Cold Cold Winter."
ANITA BRYANT COLD COLD WINTER Instant download, no pop ups or porn ads or captcha codes.
After he died, if you wanted to know details about Pernell Roberts, Googling his name didn't help. It gave you the same AP wire service report...not only used by legitimate online newspapers who can no longer afford their own writers (and can only afford to pay a smaller price to use AP's obit) but stolen by hundreds of bloggers.
If a blogger can't write, then what's the point? Why steal the AP report? Out of ego? To try and make sure people visit your site rather than one run by professionals? These guys are, to use Ellis Henican's phrase, "the bathrobe boys." Henican, a real writer, not a wannabe, wrote a piece on Net Narcissists, the scabs who grab the creativity of others for their own use.
Ellis scorned the "self-absorbed nitwit sitting in front of a computer in his bathrobe....stealing the facts that some hard-working, low-paid newspaper drone just spent hours collecting."
A lone exception among blogs was a post at sunny.kraje.org, aka "sunny worlds, just another WordPress weblog." Here was something unique: a wire service report translated into this blogger's native language, then thoughtfully re-translated so that everyone who checks "sunny worlds" before anything else, would instantly get the news:
"Pernell Roberts, a ruggedly large actress who repelled Hollywood by withdrawal TV's Bonanza during a tallness of a recognition, afterwards found celebrity again years after upon Trapper John, M.D. has died. He was 81."
What's not so funny is that the Internet is killing off magazines and newspapers, and putting out of business the reporters, proofreaders and editors who know how to give a fact-based and detailed presentation. What bloggers should do, if they can't report or interview, is to be original and give their own view (as worthless as it may be). Don't steal verbatim from somebody else (usually without even saying AP or All Music or the source). Either hot-link to the real source without stealing it, or use your own creativity to hopefully come up with a "think piece" or editorial that is worthwhile.
Worthy or worthless, below is the Illfolks take on Pernell Roberts, using facts (no copyright on them) and original observations:
Pernell (the Latin word for "Stone" or "Rock") Roberts (May 18, 1928 – January 24, 2010) always wanted to be a serious actor. If he wasn't serious about it, he would've changed his name to "Rock" Roberts. He worked his way through odd show biz jobs as both a singer and actor, to win a Drama Desk award for the 1955 off-Broadway production of "Macbeth."
Often cast as the good looking bad guy, the sinister-looking actor paid the rent via guest roles in TV westerns, including "Bronco," "Lawman" and "Have Gun Will Travel." Cast as Adam in "Bonanza," he presented a dark, thoughtful balance to the show's other brothers, the fat and jovial Hoss, and naive prettyboy Little Joe. The brooding Mr. Roberts gradually lost interest in "Bonanza." While doing the series, he complained, " "Isn't it just a bit silly for three adult males to get Father's permission for everything they do?"
His run (1959-1965) ended after many disagreements over scripting and character. By leaving, he got a reputation for being difficult, irascible and not a "team player." TV history will note Roberts as one of the first successful actors to make the "suicidal" move of leaving a money-making hit show because of "serious" ambitions. Sean Connery would be another example, a few years later, giving up a fabulous series franchise, and his toupee, in order to get more satisfying work.
Like Connery, the bald version of Pernell Roberts was so far removed from his successful leading man identity that he could finally take on serious character roles. He also delighted in playing summer stock, particularly in musicals, including "The King and I," "Camelot" and "The Music Man." He ultimately starred in "Trapper John M.D.," and he played that bald, gray-bearded character longer than he did Adam Cartwright on "Bonanza," (1979-86).
He didn't do much TV work in the 1990's, with his last two small screen roles in episodes of "Murder She Wrote" in 1994 and 1997. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about two years ago.
Though Roberts loved to sing, he only made one solo album, plus some appearances on "Bonanza Cast" albums.
Compare the two samples below: "Skip to My Lou," with Lorne Green, Michael Landon and Dan Blocker taking part, and "Lily of the West" from his 1963 solo record. Which would you be proud of?
That Roberts' solo album wasn't a huge hit is probably due to two factors. First, there was no shortage of "he can sing" albums at that time (Richard Chamberlain, Vince Edwards, and on and on). Second, Pernell's singing style was very traditional. You can easily imagine him singing a song from "Camelot," but listeners into folk music or Southern music, expected their balladeer to have a lot of warm twang in the throat and not be so articulate.
"Bonanza" and "Trapper John M.D." are still well remembered, but perhaps the enduring respect Pernell Roberts has achieved, is for his courage in leaving a hit show and setting an example for others, that it's not always "about the money," it's about being true to yourself.
"The bathrobe boys" who copy what they see at AP or All Music or even from other blogs, need to ask themselves the question Pernell Roberts asked back in 1965: what is the point? Why be a pretender instead of yourself? Pernell Roberts wasn't a "bathrobe boy," he was a man.
SKIP TO MY LOU from the BONANZA CAST
LILY OF THE WEST sung by PERNELL ROBERTS
Instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups, porn-ads, or captcha codes.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Kate McGarrigle, first diagnosed with cancer in 2006, succumbed to clear cell sarcoma just a few weeks shy of what would've been her 64th birthday.
Of course any mention of Kate becomes a family affair...she was best known as half of the singing McGarrigle Sisters (their first album arrived in 1975) and her marriage to Loudon Wainwright III yielded a new generation of performers, Martha Wainwright and Rufus Wainwright.
Born in Quebec, the McGarrigles were always special favorites in their native country, and they received Juno Awards for their albums Matapedia (1997) and The McGarrigle Hour (1999). The 15 songs in your download are from the latter, an album of 21 songs that indeed featured guest appearances from yet another McGarrigle sister (Jane) as well as Loudon, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, plus Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. Their last album was "The McGarrigle Christmas Hour" in 2005.
Kate last performed around Christmas of 2009. Her turn for the worse caused Rufus to cancel his February tour dates to be by her side. With the medication she was taking, her last days were described as peaceful. Her older sister Anna wrote on their website: "She departed in a haze of song and love surrounded by family and good friends. She is irreplaceable and we are broken-hearted."
Among the songs in the download: What'll I Do, Cool River, Young Love, Year of the Dragon, Forever and the Same, Time On My Hands, Goodnight Sweetheart and Bon Voyage. By all means, buy the album to get the full sound quality, all titles, and the karma that comes from giving money when it's due. To give money to Kate's charity, visit: http://www.muhcfoundation.com/en/mcgarrigle_about
Kate McGarrigle and The McGarrigle Hour 15 song sampler.
The real deal on musical hipness?
One clue is how well-versed somebody is on obscure singles and b-sides.
Most any punk group can get smirks by doing a cover of Chubby Checker or Joey Dee, but...the twist single from Murray the K?
Props to The Micragirls. Whether they got the Atlantic single from a thrift shop, or found it on a bootleg "Wavy Gravy" compilation of oddities, it took some guts and savvy to cover it.
History briefly noted: the song by Doc Pomus-Mort Schuman, was recorded by gravel-voiced WINS disc jockey Murray "The K" Kaufman using the name "The Lone Twister." Yes, same name for the song and the artist. On his "Swingin' Soiree," he snuck it onto an evening's broadcast with 4 other tunes. A regular feature of the show was to premiere 5 songs and have listeners call in and "vote" for their favorite. "The Lone Twister" finished third.
Even in the New York area, where Murray's voice was well known, few seemed to know that The Lone Twister was none other than Murray the K. Or, few cared. After all, the 1961 song was not a hit.
It was, and is, an offbeat little wonder. Murray was more a child of the jazz age (a previous single covered "Out the Bushes" by The Treniers) and his style closer to hipsters like Slim Gaillard than the Liverpudlians whom he befriended as The Fifth Beatle when the Fab Four came to New York. Murray's lingo (Snoop Dogg's shizzle is a variation) was certainly a throwback to the "a-roonie" Pig Latin that Gaillard used. His hipster style was to jive the middle of a word. In other words, using his words, you'd call him "Mee-a-zurry the Kee-a-zay." This blog would be "Eee-a-zil Fee-a-zolks."
"The Lone Twister" lyrics use jazz slang rather than teen terms ("let your arms wail, Frail...stay in your place, Face") and there's the old-school-cool of rhyming "alive" and "jive." More dance party than twist, the song and the singing owes more to Louis Jordan or Cab Calloway than Chubby Checker and Joey Dee. But check it out for yourself in the download, which comes from vintage 45rpm vinyl.
Back to the present: So out of nowhere, or actually, out of Finland, come The Micragirls, punky, thrashy and trashy (actually, they are named Mari, Risu and Kata). Mindless primitives of varying ineptitude, they have enthusiasm, sass, and are FEMALE, which is almost always a free pass to get on stage. Absorbing a variety of American influences, from The Ramones to the Shangri-La's and back, and filtered through a Euro-perspective and brat-youthfulness (none of them were even alive when Murray the K died on February 21, 1982), The Micragirls have that hot combo of reverence and irreverence as they salute the past, play in the present, and hope for a future.
They do have a little more going for them than just the usual semi-talented punky ability to put a ring-a-ding tune through the ringer. "Date at the Grave" for example, is a legitimately juicy instrumental complete with howls, which compares favorably to any number of Halloween novelty retro pieces from Ventures-wannabe's. But at the Illfolks blog, Ventures wannabe's are hardly worth mentioning. But a group that stomps on Murray the K's grave and offers a dead-flower tribute to his long gone "The Lone Twister..." well, "that's what I like!"
"Feelin' Dizzy Honey" is the name of the album with "The Lone Twister" on it. (The full line is of course, "Feelin' dizzy honey? That's what I like!") For more information on the band, and where they might be playing, visit themicragirls dot com.
Here's the Micragirls because, well, isn't it time you stopped living in the past and got over that Shaggs fetish? They're what's happenin' baby...
THE LONE TWISTER cover version by THE MICRAGIRLS
ORIGINAL LONE TWISTER BY MURRAY THE K Instant downloads, no pop-ups, porn-ads, code captchas or wait-time
If you've actually had a bad day, the LAST SONG you'd ever want to hear is "You've Had a Bad Day."
The only thing worse than hating that song, is finding yourself humming it. ("Quick, find me a therapist...why the fuck am I humming a song I absolutely LOATHE??")
Other known irritants include "Who Let the Dogs Out" and "Achy Breaky Heart," but it does get complicated, doesn't it? A song you hate, begins to grow on you, and you actually begin to like it.
Coincidentally enough, exactly three years ago, January 19, 2007, this blog offered you two dozen examples of songs that fascinate and infuriate, sometimes at the same time
Here are three more:
"Baby I Do Love You" by The Galens.
What kind of percussion is this? A musical saw being smacked repeatedly over the head of a bald retard? Like a throbbing headache, it doesn't go away even as the clumsy male vocalists start moaning like conscious-stricken Auschwitz prison guards. Finally, in come The Galens being oh so coy and cute with their zombie-like affirmations of ever-lasting love. Fascinating once. Infuriating twice.
"I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" by Tammy Grimes.
Why in the world begin with a rendition of "La Marseillaise?" To piss off the French? Is that a French accent, Tammy? It sounds more like a Japanese chipmonk. "The Caissons Go Rolling Along" somehow is thrown into this, too. This thing may have been recorded around the time of "Winchester Cathedral," but that's really no excuse for something that's as campy as a concentration camp is. And the wah-wah trumpet...WTF?
"Birdsong" by Cleo Laine.
This bird-brained tune begins harmlessly enough, with a very dated 70's synth throbbing incessantly in the right and left speakers, just to let you know you paid a dollar extra for STEREO. But 52 seconds in, and you get the worst cliche of scat-singing...nothing but brain-numbing doodly-doodly dee's and doo's. DOH! "A little bird came along," Cleo explains. She adds, "Chirp chirp chirp!" in case you don't get it. Next, more cock a doodle do's. How many sloe-gins did she fizz in order to make you reach for the Alka Seltzer? It's called "scat" for a good reason. If you can make it through this song entirely, you're a more tolerant man than I am, Dunga Gin.
THREE FASCINATINGLY ROTTEN SONGS via Box. No capcha codes, crap ads or donation requests
Carl Smith (March 15, 1927-January 16, 2010) is loved by fans of rockabilly and country swing for his 50's hits including "Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way," which began climbing to #1 on the C&W charts in 1951.
1951 was the same year the Tennessee native married June Carter. Many more best-selling songs followed, including "Are You Teasing Me" (1952), "Hey Joe" (1953), "Back Up Buddy" (1954), "Don't Tease Me" and his last track to hit #1, "Loose Talk" (1955). Carl was savvy enough to grab a piece of the music publishing business by starting up Cedarwood/Driftwood Music. In 1955 Carl and June welcomed their daughter into the world, Rebecca Carlene Smith (name-changed to Carlene Carter when she began recording for Warners in the late 70's).
In 1956 Carl took the family to California, hoping for film and TV work. Hollywood did have an impact; his marriage to June ended in 1957. He wed singer Goldie Hill, and that marriage endured until her death in 2005. June Carter went on to marry Johnny Cash.
Carl Smith had some sporadic singles charting in the late 50's and 60's, including "Ten Thousand Drums," "Air Mail to Heaven" and "Deep Water," and had enough fan support to keep Columbia signing him until 1975. After hanging on for a while at Hickory Records, where he just managed to make it into the Top 100 with singles such as "If You Don't Somebody Else Will" and "Show Me a Brick Wall" in 1977, Carl realized he'd hit a wall and it was time to retire. He literally went out to pasture, raising horses on his Nashville farm. He made a brief curtain call in 1983 for the Gusto label, but without success. By that time, Carlene Carter was a pretty big name, as was her husband Nick Lowe (they were married through the 80's).
As the photo above shows, Carlene and her father Carl were always close. For those who only have a distant memory of the man's name, and can't whistle any of his tunes, the download below should help. It's 15 vintage tracks including: Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way, Are You Teasing Me, Don't Tease Me, Hey Joe, Oh No, Oh Stop, Go Boy Go, Satisfaction Guaranteed, Losse Talk, Time's a Wastin', Washing my Dreams in Tears, I Just Don't Care Anymore, No I Don't Believe I Will, If You Want it I've Got it and No Trespassing.
15 from CARL SMITH
Saturday, January 09, 2010
The first musician to be taken from us in 2010 is the exotic half-Mexican half-Jewish singer from Canada, Lhasa De Sela.
Listen to "Bells," on this download sampler, and you might figure her influences to be fellow Canadians Leonard Cohen and the latter-day jazz-influenced Joni Mitchell.
She died on New Year's Day, just before midnight, following over a year of medical treatment for breast cancer.
As Warren Zevon did, Lhasa used the time remaining to complete one final album, and lived to see it released. It's certainly a more somber and minor-key effort than her previous releases, which combined to sell over a million copies thanks to her strong international following (and being able to sing in both English, Spanish and French).
While she could be quite fiery (especially on the early Spanish numbers) your download of samples reflects more of the Cohen influence (she was a guest star on a "Tribute to Leonard Cohen" Canadian TV special.)
Lhasa was born in Big Indian, New York (September 27, 1972) but moved with her family all through the U.S. and Mexico, often living aboard a converted school bus. She ultimately settled in Montreal, recording for an indie record label, winning a Canadian Juno Award for Best Global Artist in 1998, despite recording the album entirely in Spanish. Unable to make much of a living, she moved to France in 1999, and with her three sisters formed a theatre company called Pocheros. She came back to Montreal in 2003 and released a new album that mixed English, Spanish and French songs. She won the BBC World Music Award for Best Artist of the Americas in 2005
As she matured, her jazz sensibilities melded with her interest in the same shadows and substance, fragility and strengths seen in Leonard Cohen's music and lyrics. The difference is that the grimness and grit in Cohen's work was replaced by an intoxicating and smoky voice and the pretty sensibilities of minor-key Latin balladry. Some of the music harkens to the gentle and melancholy melodies of Victor Jara, the Chilean martyr and friend of Phil Ochs, a man that Lhasa hoped to some day immortalize via an album of cover songs.
It is sad when the introduction of an artist is also the announcement of her death. Four tracks for you; "Desierto" in Spanish is from her first album ("La Llorona" 1997), "La Confession" in French is from "The Living Road," 2003, and the two English tracks, "Bells" and "A Fish On Land" are from the new one, simply titled "Lhasa."
An angel of the odd, Bei Xu is a Chinese jazz singer who not only loves the standards, but likes to offer long, jazz-tinged versions of classic rock songs.
As one might expect, the Asian flavoring she brings, tends to add strange notes of sweet and sour to the proceedings. Is she singing a little flat? Is she aware of the nuances in the lyrics? You might find yourself wondering if you're actually enjoying this strange mix of East and West since the downbeat is so offbeat. At times she shows a hint of the desultory, anemic style of Natalie Merchant, other times there's a baffling trace of Yoko Ono.
On "Strawberry Fields," she seems to intentionally be singing numb, and that extends to the malfunctioning computing of a few lines: "Always know sometimes I think it's me but you know I know it's a dream. I think oh no I mean oh yes but it's all wrong. That is I think I disagree." On Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," she again finds alienation in the lyric and favors detachment in her cool jazz approach.
Her backing band is pretty eccentric as well. On "Time After Time," 4 minutes in, the pianist switches over to only playing the black notes, which will always twist things to the East. At the 3 minute mark on "Strawberry Fields" there's the brief influence of "Wild Honey Pie" and vintage "Abbey Road" Ringo drumming, and maybe the ghost of Billy Preston.
Be assured that her interpretations of jazz standards are similarly bewildering, baffling and rather bewitching. For the record, Bei considers herself primarily a jazz vocalist, and sites Carmen McRae and Dianne Reeves as her influences. As a foreign exchange student, she came to America ten years ago, enrolling at Indiana University. She moved to NYC to study jazz with Charles Sibirsky and has amazed audiences by singing jazz in Chinese and by covering classic songs with her unique Asian flavor. Her albums come to us via Chinese import CDs. Thanks! Or as we hombres put it, Bei-same Much-xu!
BEI XU Strawberry Fields
BEI XU Time After Time
Update: Nov, 2011. Rapidshare's annoying "30 days without a download kills it" policy killed the original links. They are back via a better company. Instant download or listen on line.
"What, no actual Bobby?"
The Illfolks tribute/remembrance to Bobby Cole last December 19th featured one of Bobby's songs covered by Nancy Sinatra. Which led a few fans to ask if there wasn't something of Bobby's to post...something not on the Columbia or Concentric albums? Maybe a rare single?
How about a rare demo? Here's Bobby and his trio's up-tempo take on "The Big Hurt." It's a good example of Bobby in lounge mode, fitting comfortably into the Tony Bennett, Vic Damone and Bobby Darin scene, working Vegas, wearing a tux.
This is, in fact, the Bobby who impressed Frank Sinatra, the Bobby that Judy Garland fell in love with, and the one who you may have seen on Judy's TV show when he was also her music arranger.
In his later years, sitting at the piano at Judy's (a terrible nightclub named after Garland and run by an asshole) or Campagnola or Ali Baba, Bobby's take on "The Big Hurt" was slower, more pained...not the chirp of the original Toni Fischer, or the rockin' angst of the Del Shannon cover...something far more unique. Well, this version is pretty unique, too. Here, early in his career, Bobby gives it the heroic swagger also found in Darin rejoicing at the the murders committed by Mack the Knife, or Bennett, swingin' his way through "I Wanna Be Around," acting way too strong to keep on hurting. Cole's version of "The Big Hurt" does suggest that one day the big hurt will end...and that it will be a happy ending.
BIG HURT BOBBY COLE
Addendum: It's really time to debunk the mythology of Bobby's death. As in this load of bilge: "It was outside Campagnola that Bobby Cole died in a tragic way. After his performance on December 19, 1996, he apparently fell, cracking his head on the curb, where he lay motionless for some time until someone finally called 911." No. Whatever moronic outsider babbled this got it completely wrong, which is not surprising considering that some of Bobby's "friends" hadn't actually seen him in years, and others were not particularly well liked by Bobby (a good reason why he didn't want to keep in touch with them). A few, older than Bobby, simply used up the expiration date on their brains and had become redundant nostalgic putzes forever going on and on about Sinatra and Jilly's and the hep world they used to know. So it's no surprise that one inept moron spread a half-truth that is now taken as fact.
The truth is that Bobby had not performed at Campagnola in some time, which was not unusual. He sometimes disappeared for a few days, or a week, or longer. He did not perform there on December 19th. Anyone who knows Campgnola knows that at any hour, even 2am, there's street traffic in front of the joint, a lot of action, and nobody's going to let a person lie unconscious. There was no snow or wet rain on the sidewalk that night. The truth is that Bobby was seen one block up from Campagnola, in obvious distress. A bartender, ironically enough, saw it all through his plate glass window. He saw Bobby hold a lamp post, and slowly sink. A stroke? A heart attack? Bobby was not in good shape at the time so either is possible. He didn't slip, fall and hit his head. He collapsed slowly, and an ambulance arrived very quickly. His girlfriend would later identify the body; not Jack Lonshein, not a goofy ex-drummer in Bobby's trio, not Salvatore of Campagnola, not whoever made up the Christmas fairy tale of Bobby, a survivor of car crashes and a lot worse, slipping on a pavement.