Saturday, September 12, 2009

What Is The What

Every so often I read a book that really throws me for a loop and gets me to see my life in a whole new perspective. "What Is The What" by Dave Eggers, which I finished a few days ago, is definitely one of them. It's the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese refugee whose village was invaded when he was 7 years old. It's told in the first person and he tells how he had to trek hundreds of miles on foot to relative safely - not once but a few times over the next decade. He talks about his life traveling in the jungle, in the refugee camps, his struggle to be allowed to come to the US and about his life in Atlanta where he finally settled. What really moved me was how he always maintained his basic humanity - his compassion, morals and even (most of the time) his sense of humor while experiencing horrors I can barely imagine. It gave me pause to reflect, despite my own career woes of the past year, how relatively easy my life has been and how lucky I am. As a friend once reflected about her own life, all my problems are problems of privilege. I was also struck by the similarities of human nature between people who are so culturally different from myself. I saw many of my own character strengths and flaws in the people he lived and traveled with 10,000-plus miles away from me. Despite all of the bad things that happen, in the end I found this book quite uplifting.

Big Boy Pete - London American Boy
Supposedly Big Boy Pete (aka Pete Miller) was a hipster in the 60s London Mod scene but I've also heard it said that he is nothing more than the figment of someone's creative imagination. No matter. He's got 3 CDs chock full of those freaky beat sounds I love so much. And if it's all a scam, so much the better - I take my hat off to whoever it was that pulled the wool over so many eyes.
Big John Greer - Come Back Maybelline
You don't need me to tell you which record's popularity this one attempted to cash in on. Personally, I always thought originality was overrated and this is one fine slab of noise in it's own right.
Dar Wiliams - It's Alright
I've been a fan of Ms. Williams for a few years now. Stylistically I guess she's in the same camp as Lucinda Williams although her sound is generally a bit slicker.
Hank Williams - I'd Still Want You
I'm sure that HW needs no introduction to anyone following my blog. This is taken from the "Hillbilly Hero" box that came out on Proper a few years ago, copies of which are still available on Amazon.
The Litter - A Legal Matter
It's hard to imagine anyone improving on this classic by The Who but Minnesota's Litter give them a run for their money. I'd say it's a toss up.
Mort Shuman - I'm A Man
Mort Shuman had a long and varied musical career before his untimely death at age 54 in 1991. Back in the late 5o's and early 60's he wrote a slew of hit records wit Doc Pomus and somewhere along the line, recorded this rockin' shoulda-been hit.
The Move - I Can Hear The Grass Grow (Session Mono Mix)
The first I'd ever heard of The Move was back when I was a kid and I read in 16 Magazine about how they would blow up cars in their stage show. Needless to say I was quite intrigued. I didn't get to actually hear them until a few years later and I was not disappointed when I did. "....Grass Grow" has always been one of my favorites and I really love this mono mix.
Roy Loney - Hundred Miles an Hour
I recently read something about Raven Records in Australia releasing a CD of Roy's best solo material, also called "Hundred Miles an Hour". As far as I know none of his early material has been released digitally up to now so this will be a welcome addition to his many fan's music collections.
Ry Cooder - Do Re Mi
I've always really loved RC's version of Woody Guthrie's classic "Do Re Mi". This was one of the high points of Ry's debut album and, conveniently, it is also on his recently released 2-disc career anthology "The UFO Has Landed".
Black Tie Revue - Red Everywhere
BTR are, in my opinion anyway, one of the better newer garage-punk-pop bands around. This song is taken from their only (as far as I know) album "Code Fun" which I would definitely recommend to one and all. You can hear more at their myspace page.
Mickey Murray - East Of Nowhere
Mickey Murray is best known for his fantastic version of Otis Redding's "Shout Bamalama" and while "East of Nowhere" is a bit more subdued, it gives him a chance to show just how fabulous a singer he was.
Voodoo Lust - Story Of My Life
Unfortunately for the rest of the world, Voodoo Lust never really made any waves outside of their native Australia, as they released a couple of 45s and a mini-LP all of which are wonderful in a garagey melodic punk style. The good news is that someone took some videos of them performing back in 1987 and has been so kind as to post them on YouTube.
The Gentlemen - It's A Cry'n Shame
This song probably needs no introduction to any fan of 60s garage music. Ever since it appeared on Pebbles Vol. 5 it has been much sought after, with collectors happily paying in the high hundreds for a copy. This is one time when the collector's hype is actually backed up by the music as "...Shame" is a 5-star stompin' classic. This particular recording comes from a privately pressed CD-R made from a pretty clean 45. So crank it up and let it rip!
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross - Twisted
Now we're getting into the jazz portion of this playlist. I first heard "Twisted" on a Joni Mitchell album back in the 70s and while she did a pretty good job of it, Annie Ross' beatnik jive vocal will always be the definitive version.
Dexter Gordon - The Blues Walk (Loose Walk)
I always feel at a loss when trying to write about jazz. I really like listening and I know a little about it but I am very conscious of the fact that there are so many people out there (probably some reading this blog) who know so much more than me. I just know that I really like this song so I will let a review I saw on Amazon do the talking: "This is a nice example of late-career Dexter, as this was recorded in 1981. Dexter is on top of his game and spurred to action by a great supporting cast: Art Blakey on drums, Percy Heath on bass and Cedar Walton on guitar, with guest appearances by George Benson on guitar and Woody Shaw on trumpet." Couldn't have said it better myself.