Tea for the Bloggerman


T5AotW: Week 20
December 22, 2008, 9:27 pm
Filed under: music | Tags: , , , , ,

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Week 20: December 22nd

A day late but nobody reads these anyway.

1. American Airlines theme song
I found this 7” at the thrift store the other day and what a find! It’s from 1975 and it was a promotional record sent to employees of American Airlines to debut their new theme song and advertising campaign. The first side has a message from Bob Crandall who I guess was a big shot with the company at the time and the second side has the full theme song. It’s wonderful stuff.

2. One from the Heart soundtrack by Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle
Between Tom Waits’ monumental albums Heartattack and Vine and Swordfishtrombones is this oddity in the Tom Waits ouevre. Sounding nothing like Tom Waits’ other work, this album is both a stand-out and outstanding. Beautiful jazzy-lounge melodies accompanied by Gayle’s lovely voice. The instrumental Tango on this album is, in my opinion, a sort of coming attractions for the material on Swordfishtrombones.

3. December by Chris Botti
I saw Chris Botti in Montreal at a free tribute concert to Leonard Cohen. He inagurated the concert and the whole jazz festival with a beautiful trumpet rendition of “Hallelujah” and later on in the evening he came down to the stage to play “A Thousand Kisses Deep” with the lyrics to the song being projected behind him. This album not only contains his rendition of “Hallelujah” but also a wonderful selection of Christmas music that would make any jazz lover’s belly shake like a bowl full of jelly.

4. Hymns of the 49th Parallel by k.d. lang
I like k.d. lang’s voice. She is very nice. Two great Leonard Cohen covers on this CD, plus other covers by famous Canadian singers. The only real downside to this album is her cover of Neil Young’s “Helpless.” It goes on FOREVER.

5. Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979 by Leonard Cohen
LC himself. What can I say about Leonard that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before? This is a great CD of beautifully-recorded live tracks. Until the live album is released from Leonard’s 2008-09 tour, if you want a taste of the live Leonard experience get this.



T5AotW: Week Fourteen
November 9, 2008, 5:04 pm
Filed under: music | Tags: , , ,

Week Fourteen: November 9th

Tom Waits week!

1. Swordfishtrombones by Tom Waits
Almost universally hailed at Tom Waits’ breakthrough experimental album, Swordfishtrombones is an album where Waits almost completely discards his old crooner ways and embraces the Captain Beefheart inside us all. Despite its widespread popularity among Tom Waits fans, I really didn’t care for it all too much until recently. Sure it had a number of great songs on it, but I didn’t really get a good feel for what was on it. Well I gave it another listen this week and listened to some of the live versions of those songs on the Big Time album and I have to say I’m impressed. The title track, “16 Shells,” “In the Neighborhood,” “Shore Leave,” “Soldier’s Things,” and many more are classic Waits and I did not realize it until just recently. Wowie zowie!

2. Mule Variations by Tom Waits
One of Tom Waits greatest albums, by far. This album is monumental. Gargantuan. Magnificent. “Eyeball Kid,” “Come on Up to the House,” “Get Behind the Mule.” Lyrically stunning, musically unsettling. Rivals Rain Dogs for Waits’ best album.

3. Small Change by Tom Waits
Early Waits at his best. His second album, I believe. I got this record in a used music store in Montreal when I went up to see Leonard Cohen. $10 I think. There are some really beautiful songs on this album: “Tom Traubert’s Blues,” “Invitation to the Blues,” “I Wish I Was in New Orleans.” Tom Waits sang “Invitation to the Blues” at the concert I went to in Phoenix. Really opened my eyes to the sheer beauty of some of his earlier work.

4. Real Gone by Tom Waits
Tom Waits’ latest studio album and frankly it’s not that great. There are some great songs on the album, but there is also a lot of filler. “Day After Tomorrow” is the song that convinced me of Tom Waits’ genius, and that’s on here, as well as “Make it Rain” and “Hoist That Rag.” The rest is a lot of heavy percussion and Tom Waits beatboxing which is great but there sure is a lot of it.

5. Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards by Tom Waits
Tom Waits’ latest release is a compilation of obscure soundtrack songs, covers, and outtakes but it is absolutely wonderful. Tom covers everyone from Leadbelly to Jack Kerouac to The Ramones, and is able to put a twist on traditional gospel songs that no one else could. Charlie Musselwhite’s harmonica moans beautifully on this collection, as it does on Mule Variations. Three discs of prime Tom Waits. What more can you ask for?



So Long, Montreal — Part Three: Take This Waltz
July 1, 2008, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Misc., Travel | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Day two in Montreal was quite pleasant. We started the day someone early, got breakfast before the free hotel breakfast was closed, went back to sleep, woke up, and prepared ourselves. We had two things on our agenda before a special show at the Montreal Jazz Festival: change more US money into Canadian and go to the Montreal Urban Outfitters (clothing store). So we got our stuff together, went down to the lobby to ask directions, and headed out the door.

From the hotel we headed down Rue Phillips to Rue Ste Catherine, which appears to be a major street in Montreal. Lots of outlet stores and whatnot, very nice. We turned and walked down Ste Catherine, changed our money at the nearest opportunity, and headed down the street for five blocks or so, checking out different stores along the way. After getting to the store and looking at everything in it, we grew hungry and sought our daily dosage of Asian food. We found a cute Korean restaurant nearby and found a seat overlooking the street and ordered a box lunch to share. After lunch we walked back down Ste Catherine, checking out stores and stumbling into a large mall that I swear was not there a few hours before. We looked around the mall, got some souvenirs for people back home, some swim trunks (forgot mine in Las Vegas), and more Asian food (fake food court Japanese, tasted wonky). Yum.Mural at the Korean Restaurant

After all that we headed further down Ste Catherine, past Rue Phillips and down a few more blocks to the Montreal Jazz Festival. People abound! Lots of people there enjoying the festival. At 9:30 on the main stage a special tribute concert to Leonard Cohen was to be held, and we got their 3 hours early. Leonard was to be given a special award from the festival, and everyone assumed that he would be there. So we waited, and waited. Three hours later, it began.

Crowd at the tribute concert

Turns out Leonard wasn’t there, but the president of the festival said that exclusive footage of Leonard would be played at the concert instead. And boy did they show great footage. The concert began with a recording of Leonard singing Hallelujah at one of his Montreal concerts, a recording that was projected not only on two large screens above the stage, but also on the side of two nearby buildings. Imagine a city where you can look out your window and see a giant video of Leonard Cohen playing against the Hyatt Regency hotel downtown. Amazing.

Crowd

Then the concert began. A guitarist walked on stage, bathed in stagelight, and started picking out the chord shapes of Hallelujah. Then a trumpet was heard, but it was not coming from the stage. We looked around, trying to find the trumpet, and soon found it: Chris Botti was playing from the balcony of the Hyatt, a couple of stories above the crowd. A wonderful start to a great concert.

Hallelujah

Various performers came on and off the stage to pay homage to Mr. Cohen, many of whom I had never heard of before. But there were some familiar faces: Chris Botti (who returned to the stage later in the evening to play “A Thousand Kisses Deep”), Madeline Peyroeux (who sang a marvelously jazzy version of “Dance Me to the End of Love”), the lead singer of Barenaked Ladies (who sang “A Singer Must Die” and the Cohen song with the line “…your naked body!”), and Leonard’s son Adam who sang a furious version of “Take This Waltz” and a soft version of “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”. Other singers and preformers played that I had never heard of before, but all were good–Buffy Ste Marie, Garou, Joe Lavano, Katie Melua–and more footage of Leonard singing “Suzanne” and “Closing Time” was played. All in all, an excellent concert.

Barenaked Lady

Adam Cohen

Bow

Adam accepting the award on Leonard\'s behalf

From there we made our way out of the crowd to another stage where Annie Sellick and the Hot Club was just starting their set. Wonderful swing music. Then, we ordered some sandwiches at a sub place and took them back to the hotel. We ate, then slept. The end of day two.

TO BE CONTINUED.



So Long, Montreal — Part Two: He Did Not Come All the Way Home Just to Fool Us
June 30, 2008, 9:21 am
Filed under: Concerts, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Time for part two, are you ready for this? I don’t think you’re ready for this. Proceed at your own caution.

So we arose in the early afternoon on the 25th ready to journey out and explore this strange land we had found ourselves in. We showered, enjoyed a complimentary breakfast, and prepared ourselves. Yanira, being the fashion-nazi she is, was looking forward to seeing the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I had shown her information on the exhibit a week earlier, after recognizing the name while searching for things to do in the city. We had talked briefly about Saint Laurent because he is recently deceased, and Yanira is a devoted follower of him. AND Wednesdays at the museum are half-price admission days. Could it have worked out any better than that?

We called a taxi and had him drive us to the museum. Montreal is such a beautiful city [“it’s like New York and Paris combined!”], lovely weather in June, dotted with outstanding cathedrals and overall nice things. We got out and proceeded to the ticket counter, only to find out that the half-price deal was only after 5pm. Being 2pm, we decided to walk around and come back. We walked down the street, past McGill College where Leonard Cohen studied, and took in what the area had to offer. We also spent some time in a nice bookstore.

Soon we grew hungry and went looking for Asian food. We had a taste for Asian food for some odd reason. Trying a few places without success, we found a shady-looking Vietnamese restaurant with decent prices. We were surprised; it was actually nice inside. We ordered a plate of Pad Thai to share and munched on that while talking. After lunch we walked upstairs from the restaurant to Cheap Thrills, an over-priced used CD/vinyl/bookstore. Excellent selection, but the prices were horrendous. I did find one deal though: a Canadian pressing of Tom Waits’ third album Small Change in MINT condition for $10. Last time I checked on amazon.com these went from $32 and up. I bought that after looking through damn near everything in the store [“I’m going to D-I-E”] and we walked on.

We killed enough time in Cheap Thrills to return to the museum for our discount. We then entered the enormous exhibit full of outfits designed by Saint Laurent, with video monitors showing famous models modeling them (as models are wont to do). I have only recently began to rethink my position on fashion. I used to despise it, but only because of a mental connection I had made between fashion and unimaginative trends. The word “fashion” conjured up images of celebrities wearing the latest designs as a statement of their wealth and importance rather than clothing being a medium for art, and this exhibit has certainly opened my eyes to the possibilities of this medium. Saint Laurent was a visionary, that is for sure.

We spent an hour or two in the museum, made a stop in the boutique to pick up a catalog of the exhibit and some post cards, and left. We hailed a taxi then to take us to the Place des Arts, an area of downtown Montreal designed for festivals and large events. The Place des Arts is flanked on two sides by large concert halls, a third side being occupied by a mall and the Hyatt Regency hotel, and the last side being open for the most part. We got to the Place des Arts, found out which concert hall Leonard would be in, struggled to find an entrance, failed, waited, asked around, found out we had to go underground to get in, went underground, and entered the building.

The theater was extremely nice and we had excellent seats: 10 rows from the front. A reward for being up so early to buy the tickets as they were released. I made my way to the merchandise table to try and nap one of the nifty Leonard Cohen shirts and posters they had for sale, but I was devastated (not really) to find out they did not accept credit cards. After a day in Montreal, the little Canadian money I had had dwindled down to $19, and the cheapest thing for sale was a poster for $20. I returned to my seat, still aflutter over getting to see Leonard, and waited patiently until the lights dimmed.

There are many words and phrases I could use to describe the concert–amazing, breath-taking, awe-inspiring, fantastic, earth-shattering, life-changing–but all seem inefficient to describe the feelings I had when Leonard ran out (yes, ran out!) on stage to the microphone. Everything was simply perfect; I could not ask for more. Leonard’s voice was strong and powerful, and the man had energy to take him through a three hour concert (yes, three hours!) and many encores. His guitarist, Javier Mas, is a genius. His woodwind player had enough energy to destroy our dependence on foreign oil. His backup singers–collaborator Sharon Robinson and the divine Webb Sisters–were beautiful in both appearance and in voice. Leonard and his merry band took us on a journey through nearly all of our favorite songs–from newer gems like A Thousand Kisses Deep, Closing Time, The Future, In My Secret Life, Take This Waltz, Hallelujah (which included a slight variation in one line which I used for the title of this entry)–to old classics like Suzanne, So Long Marianne, Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye, Sisters of Mercy, and a stunning rendition of Avalanche which sounded EXACTLY the way it did on the 1971 album Songs of Love and Hate. It was a revelation, a holy experience. I laughed, I wept openly, but most of all I sat in awe of something far larger and much talented than I could ever hope to reach.

And Leonard was in complete control the whole time. He knew what to sing and when to sing it, what to say and when to say it, what do dance and when to dance it. The man danced! The 73 year-old man danced! On more than one occasion! During The Future he did what has been described as Beck-shuffle during the line “and the white man dancing” and as Closing Time finished he skipped across the stage to the curtain, only to be called back by thunderous applause. After three encores, Leonard thanked the people of his home town, sang a tongue-in-cheek version of I Tried to Leave You, recited a prayer with the band, and wished us all a good night. I will never forget that concert.

After it was over (oh, if only it could have gone on forever!) we walked out onto the Place des Arts and hailed a taxi to take us the three blocks to the hotel. There we had the remnants of our Pad Thai noodles, watched part of the documentary “Ladies and Gentlemen…Mr. Leonard Cohen” and went to sleep. Two more days left to go, and the Montreal Jazz Festival was only just beginning.

TO BE CONTINUED.

YouTube clips of the concert:

Avalanche

Closing Time

Take This Waltz (dedicated to the memory of the late poet Irving Layton)

Anthem



So Long, Montreal — Part One: Getting There
June 29, 2008, 4:35 am
Filed under: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Yesterday I returned from a marvelous journey to the center of the uncivilized world: Montreal, Quebec. The great poet Leonard Cohen is currently on his first tour in 15 years, a tour that as of now has no U.S. dates. As soon as the tour was announced I knew I was going to see him. There was no option. Leonard has been a profound inspiration for me for years, and traveling to see him in concert would be my hajj. So, after checking schedules and making plans, I found myself up at 6 in the morning one day ordering two tickets to his June 25th concert in Montreal. Plane and bus tickets were to follow.

The journey sounds simple enough on paper. On the night of the 23rd I would take a plane from Las Vegas to Philadelphia, then transfer planes to arrive in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania [Sidenote: I’ve heard three different pronounciations of that city’s name in the past few months–Wilkes-Bear, Wilkes-Bar, and Wilkes-Berry]. From Wilkes-Barre I would take a bus to a town called Hazleton to meet the fabulous Yanira Garcia, fashion designer extraordinaire and fellow Leonard Cohenite. From Hazleton the two of us would board a Greyhound bus, making stops and transfers along the way in New York City and Albany. The return trip would simply be the reverse a few days later, making time to catch some of the Montreal Jazz Festival, the largest jazz festival in the world which just so happened to be occurring at the same time as the concert.

And so, at around 9:30pm on the 23rd I, along with a messenger bag full of papers, my mandolin, and a suitcase of clothes, were in a taxi headed for McCarran Airport. I arrived and rode my plane east to Philadelphia. I arrived early the next morning and took a shuttle bus from one portion of the enormous airport to another to catch my second plane. The small plane flew for half an hour and arrived in Wilkes-Barre, which is by far the nicest airport I have ever seen. It is small, clean, and simply decent. They even have a “Meditation Room” stocked with various religious texts and four pews, perhaps for traveling church congregations. From Wilkes-Barre I took a taxi to the bus station, and boarded my bus to Hazleton.

I only spent a few hours in Hazleton but my time there was pleasant. I like Hazleton; it is a very fake town. Hazleton tries very hard to appear to be a small town, but it is far too densely packed with people and buildings to successfully pull of the illusion. However, if anything is an indication of a town’s size it would be the number of Starbucks that are located there, and Hazleton has ZERO. No Starbucks’, how do you like that?

So in Hazleton I met up with Yanira, we had lunch at a health food restaurant called the Dragonfly, then lounged in a Wendy’s to charge our cellphones before the bus arrived. Later we boarded the bus and off we went. The bus rode down the Pennsylvania countryside and through the barren wasteland that Springsteen calls New Jersey until we arrived in New York City. There we got some food and waited in a long line. Within two hours time the line began to move as Greyhound staff checked passports and other documentation. The bus from New York drove for a few hours until it reached Albany, where it stopped for a half hour to refuel and be cleaned. From Albany it was a straight shot to the border. At the border we were forced from the bus to gather all our belongings and file through customs. Who, what, where, when, why, and back to the bus we went.

Montreal is not very far away from the US/Canada border, but it certainly seemed like it. We arrived in Montreal around 7 in the morning on the 25th. There we gathered our luggage and went to the information booth to find out how to get to our hotel. We thought we could walk and started walking, but soon we found ourselves lost, cold, and hungry. So we returned to the bus station, waited for the currency exchange window to open, changed out our filthy American dollars for shiny portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, and took a taxi. At the hotel we checked in, found our room, and slept soundly for a few hours before our big day officially begun…

TO BE CONTINUED.