Saturday, February 10, 2007

Re-issued Treasure: Home & Away

It's a rainy afternoon in Sacramento, and I'm having the time of my life. I'm listening to perhaps the greatest live acoustic album ever made, Clive Gregson and Christine Collister's "Home And Away".
It's been out of print for at least a decade, and it had been almost that long since my tired old cassette version, purchased (and autographed) at one of their gigs, finally became roadside confetti. Used versions on Ebay invariably were in the hundred dollar range, a bit rich for my impoverished ass. In the few email exchanges I've had with Clive over the years, I always asked when this would come out again. He was always noncommital, of the "maybe one day" persuasion. Imagine my surprise a few months back when I got an email from him announcing that Gottdiscs, a reissue company in the UK was putting it out again. I ordered it from them straight away, and it got here promptly.
I was hoping that I hadn't made it legendary through memory only, and that it would still sound pretty good.
It. Sounds. Excellent. Made for allegedly sixty pounds in 1987, around the time they were an integral part of the Great Richard Thompson's touring band (Clive, guitar and vocals Chris, vocals) this CD features only a lush acoustic guitar sound and two voices that wrap around each other with intuitive grace. This is living-room quality stuff. It sounds like they're on your sofa or in front of your fireplace. On the more raucous numbers, there's even an excited dog chipping in on the chorus. Cover versions like Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" and Larry Williams "Matchbox" are mixed with some beautiful Gregson compositions like "Home Is Where The Heart Is", "All The Time In The World" and "Northern Soul". Several of these songs are from Clive's days with Any Trouble, an unfairly neglected pop band on Stiff Records' roster. If you're of a mind for an intimate live album , do yourself a favor and click on the link below and buy it. I think the exhange rate and postage work out to about twenty bucks total.
Get it from Gottdiscs UK. Click Here.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Dive! Dive! Obsessing on Submarine Movies

I've been watching submarine movies like they're going out of style. They probably are out of style now anyway. I've seen most of them before, but one watching begat another, and soon my Netflix queue was as loaded with submarines as the Kriegsmarine was in 1940. They range from teh excellent, (Das Boot) to the absolutely horrible (U-571) . I was going to review them all, but I figured U-571 deserves its own post. WARNING: TOTAL SPOILERS BELOW.

I had run out of sub movies to watch, so I watched this one. Oy. . Matt McConnaghey is the XO aboard the USS Bon Jovi, named for the guy playing a doomed crewman. Cap'n Bill Paxton is the earnest skipper, who has recently given the navy a "no" vote to the question of should McConnaghey have his own command. They get a mission to go snag an Enigma machine off of a disabled U-Boat (U-571, natch.) First they must race to the scene ahead of another German sub sent to rescue it, then don Nazi Submariner uniforms, board the disabled vessel, overpower the crew, snag the Enigma machine, blow up the disabled sub, and return to base pronto before the dirty huns know they're about an Enigma Machine shy of a full compliment. Leading the landing party for the Americans is good old David Keith, (who you may remember as the wise-cracking, engagement-ring gobbling cheap motel suicide buddy of Richard Gere in "An Officer And A Gentleman" and not so much of a career since.) There's also some government spy type who speaks fluent German and gets seasick along for the ride. I forget who plays him, but he looks like a cross between a stockbroker and Tim Roth. Everything goes pretty well vis a vis the sub takeover, and just as they're ready to blow the disabled sub, the German rescue sub appears on the scene and torpedoes the American sub. Just a handful of men remain on the disabled German sub (and the Enigma machine, saved from drowning) and they immediately dive. Through expert maneuvering, they manage to fire a torpedo at the enemy sub, and it blows up real good in CGI splendor. They surface, looking for survivors. They see Cap'n Bill Paxton floating dead with a blowed up eye, and the ONE survivor they pluck out is the former captain of the very UBoat they're stuck on. A Jerry. A lousy hun. From here on in, it is submarine movie cliche all the way.
  • Captain looks through periscope, sees destroyer bearing STRAIGHT FOR 'EM.
  • Destroyer lobs a bevy of depth charges, rocking the sub, leaks spring up.
  • Captain insists they 'take er deep', close to or surpassing "Crush Depth"
  • Screws pop loose, gauges pop their bezels, leak after leak appears.
  • The only thing left is to? Wait for it.....BLOW THE TANKS
  • German captain able to kill a crewman, and later signal the enemy destroyer before being apparently bludgeoned to death.
  • Surface, race against time to fix the broken torpedo tube, launch single torpedo at bow of ship, watch it blow up completely, saving the day and the code machine.

Also, it really bugged me that the Americans were the ones that swiped the Enigma. Several Enigmas were captured early in the war by the British. No Americans got an Enigma until 44 or so, long after the U-Boats were a big factor in the war. The sensibility of this film would be like making "Enemy At The Gates" into a movie where a cowboy sharpshooter (Brad Pitt or someone) and his handful of salty American troops stop the German advance at Stalingrad and save the Soviet Union from ruin. For four decades anyway.

I learned from the internets that one of the deleted scenes (not included on the DVD, unfortunately) has Jon Bon Jovi being horribly decapitated. That might have changed my outlook.

I think that U-571 has as much accuracy and realism as say..."Down Periscope".

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith Pops Her Clogs

They say she wanted to be like Marilyn Monroe. Looked kind of like her, died before 40.

Not quite surprised, but surprisingly saddened by the passing of Anna Nicole Smith in Florida. I loved to look at her, especially at the fattest of her up-and-down battle with weight loss. I like big girls with wild curves. Carsick making curves. Following her progress to the pearly gates over the last couple of years was pretty sad though.

When I lived somewhere with a TV, oftentimes a remote cycle would pause for a few minutes on her reality show, and even that stagey "not so real" reality show was sad. I hope she wasn't as stupid in real life as on that show, but how could she be. She married well with very nice timing and became a huge celebrity with not much discernable talent except for the stunning visual.

Can't be THAT lucky. Or stupid.

Descending to train-wreck personal appearances, where she looked and sounded drunk or stoned or both and then losing a son at what should have been a pretty happy time for her was not so much fun to watch.
She was no Marilyn Monroe. Like I said earlier, looked a bit like her sometimes, died young, but Marilyn? No. Look at the bright side though. Anna Nicole Smith will never have a tribute song written for her by rock's biggest no-talent hack, Bernie Taupin. At least I hope not.
I'll miss those dangerous curves, and can only hope she has a happier next life.

Lights, Karma, Action!

I was rummaging through the seventy billion or so boxes of CDs I have stacked up in my tiny apartment, trying to whittle down several years of "keep it all" apathy from my career at an independent music distributor. I want to get my CD colllection back to a manageable level. Right now, it's just plain nuts. Box after box of "promos", which are free goods that record labels send out so you can be familiar with their artists. We'd get ten or so promos a week of all kinds of wild stuff most of the world, myself included, have never heard.

Most of them came home, sat around long enough to be stuffed into a permanent box, and stacked against the wall with the other detritus. But I digress. While rooting through the boxes, deciding which CDs I honestly would never play even once, and those which were good enough to keep for several more years, I came across a real gem that I'd forgotten about. It's called Bombay The Hard Way: Guns, Cars & Sitars. It's a collection of soundtrack music from various Bollywood films of the 70s. These see-em-to-believe 'em films had something for everyone. Shaft and Kung-Fu type action, heart-bursting romance, suave hipster detectives, car chases, evil plots against humanity, and a couple of points in mid-action where someone would suddenly burst into song, complete with choreography. Real crowd-pleasers. The collected bits of soundtrack on this CD are marvelous listening, combining the funk-orchestra soaring strings with a jazz beat, then putting traditional Indian elements like the sitar and tabla into the mix. Some of it includes blatant rippoffs of Western cinema soundtracks (I distinctly recognized Lalo Schifrin's "Mission Impossible" and an Ennio Morricone harmonica riff) but that's part of its charm. Another part of its charm is the way that some of the tracks are broken up by odd snippets of dialog, some in Hindi or Urdu and some in English.

I enjoyed it so much that it made it all the way to the "permanent listening" rack, and out of the "also-ran" carton ghetto forever.

I highly recommend it, looks like it is still in print.
Buy it at Amazon. Click Here.

Monday, February 5, 2007

My complicated affair with NPR

Just about the only radio station I listen to with regularity is the local NPR station. They just finished one of their monthly "extra short five day pledge drive" pitches. I didn't send any money. Instead I gave what amounts to their standard donation to a charity of my choice in their name. I will continue to do so in order to feel good about listening without actually giving them money to spend where ever they like. I don't want my money (which is really scarce these days) going to promote (in no particular order) :

1) The Unger Report, a "comedy" bit on Day To Day which would be the singular most unfunny thing on NPR if it weren't for the interminable "Guy Noir" sketches on A Prairie Home Companion.

2) A Prairie Home Companion, which should have been cancelled when Keillor left the first time.
I have never hit the next pre-set button with as much force as I have while listening to GK sing or listen to the absolutely excruciating "comedy" sketches his show spins off with workmanlike regularity.

3) The Ethnic Hours like Latino USAeee with Maria Hinojosa and News and Notes with Farai Chideya. I'd be down with this if there was a daily or weekly program totally dedicated to "Caucasian Issues". It would be fun if only to see the outrage.

4) The local announcer who spins such gems during pledge drives as "My favorite part about being in public radio is the pledge drive". Yes, mine too. Compelling radio.

5) They canned Bob Edwards, for whom I had much man-love.

If only I could live without Car Talk, This American Life, Weekend Edition Saturdays with Scott Simon, Fresh Aire, and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, I'd never listen.
And my single most favoritest most specialest thing on NPR,

"I'm Lakshmi Singh, NPR News.....Washington."

So. Gosh-Darned. Hot. If Lakshmi Singh personally ordered me to contribute to News & Notes and Latino USA, I'd do it immediately. Such is my slavish devotion.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Love, Jessie Smith at Craigslist ;-)

I admit it, I peruse the personals on Craigslist. I like the missed connections, and the 'w4m' section. There's an amazing woman in that section named Jessie Smith. You know how some beautiful women have eyes that change color depending on the light? Jessie's got them beat. She changes her age and her appearance. Sometimes she's in the mid twenties and a confident-looking blonde, a single mother with not much time for a relationship but damn it, she'll make time. Other times she's a mid-thirties biracial cutie, taking college classes at night and looking for a nerdy guy to cuddle and study with. Tonight she's a 29 year old Asian woman, seeking to establish a quaint small business, and perhaps buy a house with her suitor and make it a home.
Jessie, Jessie. So many things to so many men. She is what you want her to be. I like that in a fake woman spam generator.