Tag Archives: Airplane

And Don’t Call Me Shirley…

Leslie Nielsen has left this mortal coil.

Nielsen, best known to many for his comedic performances in the Airplane and Naked Gun movies, found his comic voice in later life. In his early career he worked heavily in television and was primarily a dramatic actor, featured in films like Beau Geste, The Posiedon Adventure and Forbidden Planet  (the latter was only his second film and became a sci-fi classic. It made his outrageously offbeat character in the Airplane movies seem even more absurd than it was.

The Zucker Brothers, who mined comedy gold via Nielsen’s deadpan delivery in Airplane, also created the underappreciated series Police Squad. Lieutenant Frank Durbin got his start there, and after the series was cancelled, the character hit the big screen in the Naked Gun films. Soon he became the go-to guy for parody movies, and the congenial Canadian actor was happy to keep working. Although most of these later films paled in comparison to the earlier classic, he was usually good for a great scene or two.

Video: Leslie Nielsen highlights

Surely his place in film history is secure.

And don’t

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New Album! Mitch Ryder

And Mitch Ryder ain't doing so bad himself...

I must start off with the disclaimer that I am a huge fan of Mitch Ryder‘s music. I’ve written enough pieces here and elsewhere touting the underappreciated master of gritty, soulful, Dee-troit rock’n’roll, mostly complaining that the general public is largely unaware that he didn’t hang ’em up after a few blazing years with the Detroit Wheels.  Ask most people about Mitch Ryder today and they’ll shrug their shoulders; most will only remember the 60’s, and a few might remember the comeback album John Mellencamp produced…in 1983.  Only the most devout of fans is even aware that there’s been a steady output of albums in Germany where he has been a superstar since establishing residency a generation ago. He remains an important, vital artist

I held off on publishing this review for months because I was hoping to release it when it would have done the most good; coinciding with whatever concerted effort was in play to promote the first American album in over a quarter-century from a bonafide legend. But it’s now months later, and…nothing. Apparently I’m too close to the flame and in the vast minority , but either this album was criminally underpromoted, or no one gives a shit about Mitch Ryder anymore. I sure hope it’s the former.  

Here’s my review from the current Bucketfull of Brains:  

 
Subtitled The Promise, Detroit Ain’t Dead Yet is the first American studio album for Mitch Ryder in over twenty-five years. It’s really, really good, and I sure hope you have the chance to hear it because like the tree that fell in that forest, when it fell there was no one around…and whatever sound it made wasn’t heard. This album has been out for months, and were I not a Mitch Ryder lifer, I wouldn’t have known about it.
  

With old Detroit buddy Don Was on hand to twirl knobs, Ryder’s newest finds him bringing the funk as well as singing the blues and rocking out. The greasy, kinetic and keyboard-churning “Junkie Love” not only channels vintage James Brown, but is among the finest tracks Mitch has ever recorded. “Everybody Looses” (sic) scores with the Eric Burdon blueprint, and like Burdon, Ryder has found a new depth to his soulful voice in his post-golden years. Listen to his pipes on “Get Real” as he bends and plies notes with as much power and rasp as he did in his youth. Most of his contemporaries are scaling down arrangements to hide their limitations while Ryder seems to be expanding his to new horizons.  

“My Heart Belongs to Me” might steal a riff from “I’ll Take You There” (the Staple Singers classic) but is the perfect vehicle for Ryder’s gruff soul; lyrically witty and timeless in its appeal. Ditto “If My Baby Don’t Stop Cryin'”, a funky urban ramble that could have easily been a roadhouse jukebox hit in his prime. And a live cover of the Jimmy Ruffin classic “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” (oddly placed within the studio tracks) trumps anything Rod Stewart has attempted to do in his last five albums of interpretations. Less appealing are “Lets Keep Dancing” and the Dylan-esque “The Way We Were”, but two clunkers out of twelve is a batting average I’ll take any day.  

Oddly enough, for an artist who wants the American audience to realize that he is creating new and vital music, the packaging of the album signals apathy in that regard. The cover is a cut-and-paste of a photo of a twenty-ish Mitch, not the sixty-plus visage of his current self. The liner notes, preceded by a quick note  of “Hello England” (?) are merely a reprint of an old bio from 2003  focusing upon Mitch’s early days and how a great career got derailed. At the tail end of the essay there’s a quick note about the Mellencamp project happening after a couple of European solo albums. And lastly – ironically – a statement that “it would be a mistake to consign Mitch Ryder to the past“.  

Fair enough, Mitch. But if that’s the case, why is there no mention of all those albums you’ve made since 1983? How about the events that led to this new stab at an American career? Most of America has no idea that you’ve made any music at all since Never Kick a Sleeping Dog, so why would you issue an album of new music in packaging that screams repackaged oldies? Fire your publicist/manager – or hire one – but don’t blame your audience for ignoring your new music if you can’t even muster the energy to acknowledge it yourself. I’m not certain if this excellent album would fly or fail in such fickle times, but to have it die in the womb because of poor marketing is inexcusable.  

Still rocking at 65

I grew up in New York City, and when I first heard Mitch Ryderand most of the magical music of the 60’s – it was on a transistor radio whose dial constantly spun back and forth between WMCA and WABC. Long before the power of Al Gore’s Internet and the availability of magazines from Creem to Mojo, AM radio was it, unless you had the stones to buy a magazine aimed at teenage girls (“Win a date with Paul McCartney!”) to get your rock and roll fix. (I did – Gloria Stavers‘ trailblazing 16 Magazine was my guilty pleasure and my salvation). When I was growing up, those DJ’s were stars, and one of those legendary voices leading the charge was silenced by a heart attack today.  Ron Lundy, you took that musical journey with me…R.I.P., my friend. Seventy-seven, W-A-B-C!  

And R.I.P. Peter Graves, who would have been eighty-four this Thursday. Mission Impossible was cool as hell, but like Leslie Nielsen, you knew not to take yourself that seriously and are legend thanks to Airplane.  Now you’re really under, Ouver!  

Has it really been thirty years since Airplane??  

 

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Airplane Crash

Toasters? Or just plain toast?

Jefferson Airplane was an intriguing band, capable of dynamic music, political boldness and spectacular performances, thanks to a combination of members who both illuminated each other’s strengths and compensated for each other’s gaps. Paul Kantner’s songs  could be calls to arms or mythic space oddities, but either way the fluid bass playing of Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen’s ethereal guitar added another dimension to his vision. There were usually multiple musical odysseys taking place within the same song, and when they were on, they were on

Although not the original lead singer, Grace Slick was the point person for the most popular edition of the group. Beautiful and powerful, she was mesmerizing to watch and a siren on record, not to mention incredibly alluring to a young boy coming of age. San Francisco was exploding and I was on the wrong coastline, but I could start to imagine to what it was like anytime I heard her voice. 

(I will always remember approaching the department store record counter and telling the clerk I want “Somebody To Love“. The girl leaned over the counter and looked me straight in the eye. “Me too“, she cooed. As she laughed and walked away to get the record for me, I tried to close my mouth, which had been left hanging open to match the deer-in-the-headlights look in my eyes. Someday I would have ten snappy comebacks for that flirtatious taunt, but that day I was pre-teen toast.) 

But I digress… 

 

Soon enough, the 60’s would stumble to a yang and yin conclusion with Woodstock and Altamont, two large festivals where the Airplane would make an appearance. The latter was a disaster of epic proportions (and a subject for another time) but Woodstock was magnificent. A series of albums called The Woodstock Experience have been released pairing an artist’s studio album with their live – and often unreleased – sets from the Festival. For Jefferson Airplane fans, this is a godsend and an example of the band at the height of its powers. 

Unfortunately, just a few years later, it would all fall apart. Anyone who doubted the unraveling of the band or the total abandonment of their principles need only listen once to Thirty Seconds Over Winterland

If you want to know what was going on with Jefferson Airplane when they took the stage for their final concert in 1972, consider the cover art that was used for this live document. Seven toasters, unplugged, flying in formation despite displaying clocks with different times. Or, if you will, seven burnt-out musicians doing their best to keep up appearances despite having completely separate agendas. This band had once—along with the Grateful Dead—spearheaded the psychedelic rock movement and the San Francisco music scene with dynamic live performances and a catalogue of material that was both populist and intricate. Now there were basically three factions under one roof vying for control. 

Read the full review at PopMatters

Backatcha, babe.

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