Archive for the ‘2010’ Category

‘Thirteen’

Friday, November 13th, 2015

It’s Friday the Thirteenth, and the only reasonable thing to do is to look for tracks on the digital shelves with either “thirteen” or “13” in their titles. The take turns out to be slender: four tracks.

We could expand the search into albums. A numeral search would bring us Lee Hazlewood’s 13 from 1972 or Blue Magic’s 13 Blue Magic Lane from 1975, and a word search would call up Laura Nyro’s 1968 album, Eli And The Thirteenth Confession. And if we wanted, we could look into a couple of albums from Thirteen Senses, a current British group whose own website describes its sound as “indie/melodic.”

But we’ll stay with our four titles.

First up, alphabetically, is “Thirteen” by Big Star, the legendary power pop group of the early 1970s fronted by Alex Chilton. The track is from the group’s 1972 debut album, No. 1 Record, and describes the reactions of Chilton and fellow band member Chris Bell to witnessing a performance by the Beatles at the age of thirteen. In its listing of the 500 greatest songs of all time, Rolling Stone ranked “Thirteen” at No. 406. Big Star, like a lot of other groups and performers, is something I missed (both in the 1970s and during the band’s brief reunion in the 1990s). Listening now, I wish I hadn’t. But there was only so much time and money, and at least I got to No. 1 Record and all the rest eventually.

There are three albums on the digital shelves by the British group Charlie – No Second Chance, Lines and Fight Dirty, from 1977, 1978 and 1979 respectively – and none of them really stand out. All three are pleasant, they’re competently played, and they sound as much like Southern California work of the time as anything British (except for the occasional Brit accent or bit of slang). I remember seeing the group’s albums in the store – noted as they were for the pretty young women on their covers – but I was never tempted, and listening occasionally nearly forty years later, I’m not sure I missed much. But “Thirteen” from No Second Chance is melancholy and affecting, the tale of a girl grown up too quickly:

When she fell in love with her first boy, she was only just thirteen
She never had another look, this one could buy her dreams
So she signed away her life at sixteen

When you cue up a J.J. Cale track, you know pretty much what you’re gonna get: A relaxed, shuffling tune with some tasty guitar fills, no matter what he’s singing about. And that holds true for “Thirteen Days” from his 1979 album 5, which turns out to be a salute to life on the road:

Thirteen days on gig down south
We got enough dope to keep us all high
We got two girls dancing to pick up the crowd
Sound man to mix us, make us sound loud

Sometimes we make money
Sometimes we don’t know
Thirteen days with life to go

Having listened several times to Steve Forbert’s “Thirteen Blood Red Rosebuds” while following along with the lyrics, I have no idea what the song is about. He sings:

Hang your hopes on sun but the ships don’t sail
Storm clouds rule everything
Sailors pack both bars and Marlene works hard
More cheap engagement rings

Thirteen blood red rosebuds
Five weird weekend crimes
Sixteen sincere smiles while
Nobody’s lyin’

But that’s okay. It’s Steve Forbert. The track carries echoes of his 1979 hit, “Romeo’s Tune,” which I like a lot. “Thirteen Blood Red Rosebuds” is from his 2010 album, Mission Of The Crossroad Palms.

‘That Dirty Little Coward . . .’

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

The jukebox across the way in the Atwood Center snack bar was playing Elton John. Sitting at The Table, I heard the puzzling title phrase, “I feel like a bullet in the gun of Robert Ford.”

It must have been a Monday morning in early 1976, about the time John’s record entered the Top 40. Why a Monday? Because that was the quarter when I was an intern at a Twin Cities television station, and the only times I was at The Table in Atwood that quarter was on the occasional Monday morning when I checked in with my adviser before heading back to the Twin Cities and my sports reporting work.

Anyway, I looked over at the jukebox across the way and wondered out loud, “Who’s Robert Ford?”

The answer came quickly from my friend Sam, one of whose passions was the American West. “He’s the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard,” he said.

I looked blankly at him. “Okay,” I said. “That must mean something.”

He laughed and said, “Robert Ford was the man who shot Jesse James.”

I imagine I nodded, and the conversation went elsewhere and after a while, I headed to my adviser’s office and then back to the Twin Cities. And it’s entirely possible that until I picked up Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to The Long Riders in 1989, I never heard the folk song “Jesse James,” the song that Sam quoted to me that morning. Cooder’s version – which I sadly cannot embed here – plays over the end credits of the Walter Hill movie.*

The song is an old one, written soon after James’ death in 1882 by Billy Gashade (or perhaps LaShade) and first recorded in 1920 by a typewriter salesman named Bently Ball, according to the blog Joop’s Musical Flowers. Until I ran across that citation, the earliest version I knew about – but one I’ve not heard – came from Bascom Lamar Lunsford in 1924. Digging around at YouTube in the past few weeks, I’ve found versions by the Kingston Trio from 1961, the South Memphis String Band (a group made up by Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and the Black Crowes; Jimbo Mathus of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Alvin Youngblood Hart) from 2010 and Van Morrison (from a 1998 performance with Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber).

(Joop’s Musical Flowers lists many more versions, some dating to 1924, and has video or audio links for some of them.)

The shelves here also include versions by Bob Seger, from his 1972 album, Smokin’ O.P.’s, and by Bruce Springsteen, from his 2006 album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions and from the 2007 release Live In Dublin.

All of those are worth hearing (well, I’m not sure about the Kingston Trio’s version, which is why I did not link to it), but one of the best is the version by Pete Seeger from his 1957 album, American Favorite Ballads.

* Walter Hill’s film is also notable for the casting of four sets of acting brothers – Keach, Carradine, Quaid and Guest – as, respectively, the historical brothers James, Younger, Miller and Ford.

‘I Just Want To Hold You . . .’

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

So what was spinning on the basement stereo forty years ago today, as winter quarter resumed at St. Cloud State?

Almost certainly, Graham Nash’s Songs For Beginners, released in 1971, was in heavy rotation. The LP log tells me that I’d picked up the album on January 4, 1975, adding one more piece to the collection of music that I’d heard nearly every day at the hostel in Denmark a year earlier.

The album had some flaws, and I think I knew that from the first few times I’d heard it on the tape player in our lounge in Denmark. Nash’s voice, I thought, didn’t feel strong enough to carry a whole album, and I thought the songwriting was erratic. Some of the songs were good, and others felt like filler put together to ensure enough material for an LP.

But I bought the album anyway, being more interested in how the record made me feel than in what my critical judgment might tell me. A quick check of a 1975 calendar tells me that I brought the record home on a Saturday, and I’m sure it was on the stereo in the basement rec room frequently that weekend.

Another quick look, this one at Pro Football Reference, tells me that there was no NFL football that weekend; I had another week to go before I watched my Minnesota Vikings fall 16-6 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. So I’m sure I listened to Nash on both Saturday and Sunday. And I no doubt reaffirmed my judgment that the best track on the record was “Simple Man.”

It is, as the lyric promises, a simple song, one that Nash wrote after he and Joni Mitchell parted ways (as is true of many of the other songs on the album). And, to me, the song’s simplicity is what makes it work. (That simplicity also made it easy to determine the chords so I could add the song to my piano repertoire of the time; I’ll likely renew my acquaintance with it soon.)

Later in 1975, I came across a cover of Nash’s tune that I liked maybe a little bit better than Nash’s original version. The cover came from Paul Williams, and it was on his 1971 album Just An Old Fashioned Love Song.

I haven’t listened to Songs For Beginners – as an album – for years. The same goes for Williams’ album. Tracks from the two records pop up on very rare occasion on the RealPlayer, and I don’t skip over them, but “Simple Man” remains the only track from Nash’s album that would really catch my ear these days. The Williams album pulls a bit more weight, with “Simple Man” being one of maybe four tracks that matter to me. (The most affecting track on Williams’ album, long-time readers with good memories might already surmise, is “Waking Up Alone,” which sends a twinge of not unpleasant melancholy through my heart whenever it shows up.)

There aren’t a lot of other covers out there, from what I can tell. After Williams’ cover, the website Second Hand Songs lists three more, and some digging at Amazon and iTunes brought no more. Middle-of-the-road vocalist Jack Jones included a version of the song on his 1973 album Together. It’s not posted at YouTube or available at either of the two retail sites, from what I can tell. (Jones’ cover of “Simple Man” likely wouldn’t be the most interesting track on that album; the closing track is a cover of Carly Simon’s “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.”)

Current day singer-songwriter Denison Witmer included “Simple Man” on Recovered, his 2003 collection of covers of mostly 1970s tunes, and Will Oldham, under the name Bonnie “Prince” Billy, recorded a Spanish version – “Simple Man (Hombre Sencillo)” – for his contribution to the 2010 release Be Yourself: A Tribute To Graham Nash’s Songs For Beginners. I like Oldham’s cover a bit more than I do Witmer’s, but both of them somehow seem a little off-kilter to me.

So I’ll stick with the two 1971 versions, and if forced to choose, I’d probably go with Williams’.

‘How Does Your Light Shine?’

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

As we’ve discovered over the past week or two, covers of the song “Shambala” – the Daniel Moore-penned song first recorded in 1973 by B.W. Stevenson and covered almost simultaneously by Three Dog Night – are relatively few. (I should note that the order in which the first versions of the song were recorded is offered here as I find it online. Faithful reader and pal Yah Shure made a comment in an email the other day that calls that order – Stevenson, then Three Dog Night – into question. I’ve meant to ask him about that, but I have not yet done so.)

Beyond the two 1973 versions and the two other covers noted here last week, I’ve found three other covers of “Shambala” and clear evidence that there’s at least one more cover out there: At least two used record outlets online are offering a 45 rpm single of the tune by soul legend Solomon Burke. Neither listing shows an issue date, nor does the generally reliably Soulful Kinda Music list the single at all. All Music Guide has the track listed on a 2004 anthology. If I get hold of it, it will show up here.

Writer Moore released one rootsy self-titled album in 1971 and then focused on writing and production for more than twenty years before establishing his own label – DJM – and releasing a series of albums starting in 1997, with the most recent listed at AMG being 2011’s Fittin’ To Go Off. His rather bland take on “Shambala” showed up on his 1998 album, Riding a Horse & Holding Up the World:

One of the covers of “Shambala” mentioned here earlier was Rockpile’s a capella 1992 offering. A similar version showed up in 2009 via a group that was formed at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. That’s when the Bear Necessities included their version of the tune on their album Teaches Of Peaches, a take on the song that, to my ears, owes an immense debt to the Swingle Singers.

And finally, the last cover I’ve found of “Shambala” is a good live version of the tune recorded by country star Toby Keith and his band. The performance – recorded in June 2010 at New York City’s Irving Plaza during one of Keith’s low-profile Incognito Bandito gigs – was one of four live tracks included in the deluxe version of Keith’s 2011 album Clancy’s Tavern.

Out From The Sun, Part 2

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Having safely crossed the Asteroid Belt beyond Mars, we continue our trek outward from the Sun and approach Jupiter, the largest of the planets. Fittingly, our tune here is one that is related to spaceflight: A search for information about the 1958 instrumental “Jupiter-C” by Pat & The Satellites brings us, among others, a link to Wikipedia, where we learn that Jupiter-C was an American rocket used to test re-entry nosecones during three sub-orbital spaceflights in 1956 and 1957. The rocket, Wikipedia says, was one of those designed by the U.S. Army under the direction of Wernher Von Braun (whom I once met). The record spent four weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 81, and as I check that out in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, I learn that the studio musicians who recorded “Jupiter-C” included the great King Curtis, whose sax is front and center for much of the record.

From Jupiter, we head on toward the beautiful rings of Saturn, and our tune is a Stevie Wonder track titled “Saturn” and found on Wonder’s 1976 album Songs In The Key Of Life. The track was never used as even the B-side of a single, but the album was No. 1 for fourteen weeks, beginning in the middle of October 1976. And even though it’s an album that I heard frequently if not constantly in the spring of 1977 as I hung out with friends from the St. Cloud State student newspaper, I’m sad to say don’t recall “Saturn” and its message:

There’s no principles in what you say
No direction in the things you do
For your world is soon to come to a close
Through the ages all great men have taught
Truth and happiness just can’t be bought – or sold
Tell me why are you people so cold?


We’ll hang around
Saturn for a while yet and make a stop at Titan, the largest of Saturn’s many, many moons. And as we gaze at – as Wikipedia says – “the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found,” we listen to “Sirens of Titan” by Al Stewart, a track from his 1975 album Modern Times. The album sold decently, reaching No. 30 on the Billboard 200, but that pales, of course, compared to the reception received by Stewart’s next two albums, Year Of The Cat and Time Passages, which went to No. 5 and No. 10, respectively. Sonically, Modern Times is similar to the next two albums – all three were produced by Alan Parsons – but it sounds to me just a shade thinner than Cat and Passages. Stewart’s voice is, of course, unmistakable.

And we find ourselves approaching Uranus, the planet whose name is the source of thousands of schoolboy giggles, some of which have found themselves attached to some sophomoric song titles. But we don’t need to go there. Digging through the mp3 files and related tunes this morning, we find “Uranus” by the Brunning/Hall Sunflower Blues Band. According to All Music Guide, Bob Brunning was the bassist for the band that became Fleetwood Mac, but was let go by Peter Green once John McVie had left John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers to join Green’s band. Brunning went on to teach and continue recording part-time, and he and pianist Bob Hall formed the Sunflower Blues Band. In 1969, the band, with some participation from Green, recorded the album Trackside Blues, which included the track “Uranus.” It’s a decent blues track, but its primary appeal this morning is its title.

Heading on, we stay in the realm of the gas giants and find ourselves at Neptune, with the music provided by Nicole Atkins, herself a native of Neptune, albeit the city in New Jersey instead of the distant planet. “Neptune City” was the title track to her 2007 solo debut album. As I wrote in 2010, the album is “lushly produced pop with some tricks and warbles that made it clear how much Atkins listened to – among other things – the Brill Building sounds of the early 1960s.” And it’s an album that I like very much, one that stays pretty close to the CD player that I use for late-night listening.

Pluto is either a planet or a dwarf planet, depending on which cadre of astronomers you talk to, but all I know is that it’s out there and we need to stop by on our way toward the edge of the Solar System. Music was hard to come by here, and we had to dig deep into the digital shelves before finding a song that originally came from a Dutch pop duo called Het Goede Doel. In 1982, the duo’s single “België (Is er leven op Pluto?)” – which translates to “Belgium (Is There Life On Pluto?)” – went to No. 4 in the Netherlands. According to Wikipedia, the duo also recorded a version of the song in English. I didn’t look for that, though, because I have a cover of the tune in its original Dutch by Scala & Kolacny Brothers, the Belgian girls choir that has popped up here at least once before. From a bonus disc included with the 2010 album Circle, here’s “België (Is er leven op Pluto?)”

‘Violet’

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

As promised yesterday, we’ll continue today with the next installment of Floyd’s Prism, and when we search in the mp3 stacks for tunes with “violet” in their titles, we get a minimal result: only thirty-six titles.

And most of them have to be discarded, as is generally the case. First off the pile are a couple of singer-songwriter albums: Madison Violet’s Americana-tinged 2009 album, No Fool For Trying, and Sarah Alden’s 2012 effort, Fists Of Violets, which is more difficult to characterize.

Then, we lose some individuals tracks whose titles come close: “Violetta” from the 1962 album A Taste of Honey by exotica master Martin Denny; “Goodbye To the War; Goodbye To the Violets” from the 1973 album Weltschmerzen by the People’s Victory Orchestra & Chorus; “Violets for Your Furs” from Frank Sinatra’s 1954 album, Songs for Young Lovers; U2’s “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” from the 1992 album, Achtung Baby; and versions of Eric Andersen’s “Violets of Dawn” from the Robbs (1967), Rick Nelson (1969), Mary Chapin Carpenter (2009) and Andersen himself (1966, as noted here yesterday).

That leaves us with six tracks, which was our target. So on we go.

The British-based folk rock band Eclection recorded only one album during its two-year (1967-69) existence, but the self-titled album, released in 1968, is pretty good and not as Brit-centered as one might expect. In the liner notes for the 2001 reissue of the album, Richie Unterberger wrote, “The combination of male-female harmonies, optimistic lyrics with shades of romantic psychedelia, folk-rock melodies, acoustic-electric six- and twelve-string guitar combinations, and stratospheric orchestration couldn’t help but bring to mind similar Californian folk-pop-rock of the mid-to-late 1960s.” The track “Violet Dew” doesn’t quite cover all of those bases, but it covers a lot of them. Perhaps the most noticeable thing as I listen this morning is the remarkable voice of singer Kerrilee Male, who left the band later in 1968 to go home to Australia and seemingly, from anything I can find online this morning, never recorded again.

Shawn  Phillips’ work from the early 1970s has shown up frequently in this space (though perhaps not for a while), but his later work not so much. That’s unfortunate, as Phillips’ later work is worth hearing. The difference, I suppose, is that his work from the latter portion of the 1970s does not carry the same time-and-place weight for me as does his earlier stuff; I didn’t hear much of the later work at the time it came out. Still, nearly every time something pops up from his late 1970s albums, I’m glad it did so. Today, it’s “Lady in Violet” from his 1978 album Transcendence, about which I said in 2007: “It’s a pretty good album, of a piece with the rest of his work, although the lyrics don’t seem to stand up as well . . . . Musically, it’s enjoyable with a breath-taking moment or two.” Whether any of those moments show up in “Lady in Violet” is your call, I guess. I think they do.

Without doubt, the finest offering among the six surviving “Violet” tracks is “Violet Eyes” by Levon Helm. Found on his 1980 album, American Son, the track offers harmonies and an overall feeling that echo the best albums of The Band. According to All Music Guide, the track was recorded in Nashville: “While recording a few songs for the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter, in which he played Loretta Lynn’s father, Levon Helm and friends just kept the tape rolling.” And as I listen this morning, I wonder why no solo tracks from Helm showed up on my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox. So, in what I imagine could be – perhaps should be – the last instance of Jukebox Regrets, I’ll acknowledge that “Violet Eyes” and “Even A Fool Would Let Go” (from Helm’s 1982 self-titled album) should have been part of the Ultimate Jukebox.

Maybe it doesn’t happen so much anymore (or maybe I just don’t see it), but a few years ago the simple mention of Coldplay at a forum or bulletin board – during a time when that band was perhaps the most popular band in the world – would spark arguments, dismissive comments and utter vitriol aimed at Chris Martin and his mates. I never understood that. I don’t count Coldplay among my favorites, but I don’t find the group’s music unlistenable. And I do like very much several tracks from the group, including “Violet Hill” from the 2008 album Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends.

To label something as “glossy Americana” might be a contradiction, but that’s what I hear when I listen to the 2011 CD Barton Hollow by the duo called the Civil Wars. The album by Joy Williams and John Paul White offers mostly rootsy ballads that seem to have been worked over until they shine, which is not an awful idea, but some part of me wants a few unsanded and unvarnished bits in my folk music. Still, I find Barton Hollow enjoyable, and that holds true for the instrumental “The Violet Hour” this morning.

I’m not sure how I got hold of Jeremy Messersmith’s 2010 album, The Reluctant Graveyard. There are a number of public relations firms that email me regularly, offering CDs or downloads, so I’m assuming that’s how I heard of Messersmith, who is based in Minneapolis. And having done some digging and some closer listening this morning, I have to add Messersmith – who’s gained a lot of critical acclaim in the past few years – to that long list of musicians to whom I should pay greater attention. As to this morning’s task, “Violet!” is one of the better tracks on The Reluctant Graveyard. Here’s the (rather quirky) official video:

‘Skippin’ Reels Of Rhyme . . .’

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Still not certain how many covers there might be of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” I keep looking at the lists at Second Hand Songs and Amazon for some insight. No revelation comes, but I do note, perhaps unsurprisingly, that most of the covers listed at the first of those sites came in a very few years after Dylan recorded and released the song himself.

Dylan’s version came out in 1965 on Bringing It All Back Home, with the album reaching the Billboard 200 chart on May 1; the Byrds’ famous cover of the song hit the magazine’s Hot 100 singles chart on May 15, on its way to No. 1. Between then and 1969, SHS lists thirty-four covers of the tune, with the vast majority of those coming in the first couple of years.

Among those thirty-four covers was William Shatner’s legendarily bizarre version from his 1968 album A Transformed Man. (You can find it easily at YouTube if you feel the need.) One that I like a lot came from the British group the Marmalade in 1968; another that’s not nearly so high on my list was the cover by Don Sebesky from The Distant Galaxy, his 1969 album of what I can only describe as futuristic easy listening.

One of my favorite versions of the song came from 1969 as well, courtesy of the one-off group of musicians who called themselves the Brothers & Sisters of Los Angeles for an album called Dylan’s Gospel. As I’ve noted in this space at least once before, the webpage that listed the musicians involved seems to have disappeared in the past five or six years, but I do recall that among the singers on the project were Merry Clayton and Clydie King.

The frequency of covers of “Mr. Tambourine Man” slowed as the 1960s ended, but every now and then, the song drew the attention of a group or performer, and some of the resulting covers sound pretty good from this vantage point. The R&B group Con Funk Shun took the song uptown on a single in 1974, a performance that wound up on the 2010 anthology How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan, and the Fourth Street Sisters recorded the song for the 2002 effort, Blowin’ in the Wind: A Reggae Tribute to Bob Dylan.

A couple of other versions stand out from recent years, though perhaps for different reasons. Jazz singer Abbey Lincoln did a very nice version on her 1997 album Who Used To Dance. And, on an entirely different level, a collection of youngsters from New Zealand called the Starbugs recorded a cheerful and antiseptic version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” for their 2011 album Kids Sing Bob Dylan, and I’m not altogether certain how I feel about their bland take. (Two things to note: The Starbugs – or more realistically, their adult producers – have also fashioned a similar album of Beatles’ songs; and among the members of the Starbugs is Jessie Hillel, who was the runner-up in the 2012 edition of the reality TV show New Zealand’s Got Talent.)

The most interesting version of Dylan’s iconic tune that I’ve found among the later covers – and my explorations have been by no means exhaustive – comes from a group with Minnesota origins. Cloud Cult released its idiosyncratic cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” on a 2010 EP, Running With The Wolves. I don’t know that I’d ever heard much by Cloud Cult before; as with so many performers and groups that I come across when I explore covers of familiar tunes, that lack has to be remedied.

Saturday Single No. 342

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

I know it’s Saturday, but I’m going to talk a bit about Sundays past, which used to start here with bacon. Nearly every week, Sunday morning would find the Texas Gal frying a pound of bacon to start the day. I’d slap some Miracle Whip (and sometimes a slice or two of Swiss cheese) on a couple of slices of bread and have myself a mega-sandwich, while the Texas Gal took her bacon neat.

As I noted a while back, however, the two of us became involved a little more than a year ago in the activities of the St. Cloud Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. That has made our Sunday mornings a fair amount busier, as we now leave the house about 10 o’clock and rarely get home until sometime after noon. Bacon has been left for the other six days of the week, if we happen to think of it. And we often haven’t thought of it at all.

But earlier this week, the Texas Gal pulled a pound of the stuff out of the freezer, and today was Bacon Saturday. I had my sandwich, she nibbled pieces from a green bowl, and even the catboys Cubbie Cooper and Clarence got to have a few crumbles (a major treat for both of them). And as I ate my sandwich, I wondered about songs with “bacon” in their titles.

I have only five in the collection. One of them, Taj Mahal’s 1969 version of “Bacon Fat,” showed up here on a Saturday some time ago, so we’re down to four. One of those four is a 1975 version of the same tune by Jesse Ed Davis, so we’ll skip that. Peter Yarrow’s “Beans, Bacon And Gravy,” also from 1975, doesn’t really resonate with me, so we’ll pass that by, too. And “Bacon in the Skillet,” a 2005 track by Chatham County Line, is a nice fiddle workout, but it’s not much more than that, so we’re left with one.

And that last tune with “bacon” in its title turns out to be about a different type of bacon: “Sir Francis Bacon At The Net” is a track from the Cowboy Junkies’ 2010 album Renmin Park. The album was named, says All Music Guide, after the park in Zhengzhou, China, where Junkies’ guitarist and songwriter Michael Timmons spent much of his time while adopting two children from China. As to the song, it’s about . . . well, beyond the recurring sounds of a tennis match in China (in the Renmin Park of the album’s title, I imagine), I’m not entirely sure what it’s about:

Merciless nature, human and mother walk this land
Each through the arm of the other
Their tithe they count in millions
In a Land that loves its villains

So calculating it parses a man
Between the hand that held the dream
And the sword being held by the hand
Their golden frames hang gleaming
Tangled bones of their crimes bleaching
Their golden frames hang gleaming
Bleaching bones of their crimes tangling

There he stands a mere mist of a thing
Waiting his turn to challenge the King
He counts his time in centuries
He lives on the smallest of mercies
He counts his time in centuries

As the map is unrolled the dagger comes out
And that which was certain will now end in doubt
Thank you Sir Francis Bacon
Another piece of advice not taken
Thank you Sir Francis Bacon
Another piece of advice not taken

Whatever it’s about, I like it a lot, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 340

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Words are not usually necessary on May 4, and perhaps that is true yet, but some thoughts came to mind yesterday as I pondered the events of forty-three years ago today. Nearly since its inception, this small space on the Internet has explored as two of its main topics the passage of time and the persistence of memory. Part of that exploration has been the commemoration every May 4 of the four young people killed in 1970 by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University during protests against the Vietnam War. They were:

Allison Krause
Jeffrey Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder

We all, through the courses of our lives, lose many people whom we love: Spouses, lovers, parents, friends, and occasionally and perhaps most sadly, children. When the lost one is young – as were the four in Ohio in 1970 – the loss carries with it as well the loss of possibility, of what that young person could have built with his or her life. We grieve the absence, yes, but we grieve just as much the spouse never chosen, the children never born, the jobs never won, the music never heard. And those left behind learn that with the passage of years, grief does become less acute, but they also learn that – like a radioactive atom with its half-life – grief never really goes away.

That may be the final gift of grief: that it never fully goes away, that despite the passage of time it always reminds us of what we had in those who were taken from us, and it does so more and more gently with each passing year.

And we remember.

In 2010, the organization MusiCares honored Neil Young as its Artist of the Year with a celebratory concert in Los Angeles on January 29. Among the performances that evening was Ben Harper’s version of “Ohio.” And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

To Tide Us Over

Friday, December 14th, 2012

It’s been a hard week here under the oaks: Too many things needing doing and too many of them yet undone. So I’m going to send Odd and Pop on vacation today and get back to my list of tasks. In the meantime, here’s a track I came across pretty much by accident the other day:

Toots Thielemans’ European Quartet, in a live recording released in 2010, performing the “Theme from Midnight Cowboy.”

I’ll be around tomorrow with a Saturday Single.