Tag Archives: Chuck Prophet

Life’ll Kill Ya

It was on another long car trip this week that I slipped some Warren Zevon into the player, this time Genius, the collection issued in 2002. I knew every song, of course, and sang along loudly as I navigated the car through The Berkshires at night, my warble interrupted only by the occasional smack of a huge bug against the windshield and fenders. (I don’t know what flies around there at night, but I’m sure glad I wasn’t driving a convertible.)

Of course, no single disc could contain Zevon’s genius, and is the case with most veteran artists, seeing a show or listening to a collection always leaves you wanting more. So when I got home, I made a beeline for this one.

I really, really miss Warren Zevon. I can only imagine what he’d be writing about these days.

From Consumable Online, February 2000…

Some see the glass as half-empty, while others see the glass as half-full. Warren Zevon sees the glass as broken – some of the contents spilled all over his pants, and the rest rolling around on the floor.

With superb backing from longtime ace Jorge Calderon and drummer Winston Watson, Zevon continues to avoid the “big sound” for a more stripped down folk’n’roll approach. Naturally, focus then shifts to voice and words, where Zevon is king. “I can saw a woman in two/ but you won’t want to look in the box when I do,” he says in the Springsteen-ish “For My Next Trick I’ll Need A Volunteer,” which features Chuck Prophet on guitar. Taking the theme of “life sucks, then you die” to a new level, he explores the frailty of human existence and the quest for some sort of spiritual affirmation…which of course he’s skeptical about. And, just for good measure, some songs about S&M and the self-inflicted demise of Elvis Presley.

Having suffered the slings and arrows of a professional musician, Zevon’s weather-beaten attitude could be self-righteous or pastoral. Instead, underneath the surface of the crusty observer, you know he’s got it figured out; life’s too short to let the posturing and bullshit cramp our style.

You know I hate it when you put your hand inside my head/ and switch all my priorities around,” he says in “I’ll Slow You Down,” a tale as applicable to religious uncertainty as it is to relationship angst. Maybe we can settle for a simple “don’t let us get sick/don’t let us get old/don’t let us get stupid, alright?” Even the record’s lone cover, Steve Winwood’s “Back In The High Life Again” at first seems an odd choice, but in the context of these takes on the inevitable, it’s an ironic inclusion.

You can dream the American Dream,” Zevon says, “but you sleep with the lights on/and wake up with a scream.” Acerbic and clever as ever, Warren Zevon remains a unique treasure among American songwriters.

Listen to clips and purchase here.

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Under The Radar: Cheap Wine

About ten years ago I came across an Italian band called Cheap Wine and wrote up their album A Better Place for Cosmik Debris. I still pull the damned thing out from time to time. The original MP3 site is long gone but the band is still out there kickin – they now have six albums out –  so I thought I’d tip my cap again a decade later…

I don’t speak Italian, and I can’t read Italian, so whatever was in the press kit that I received from Cheap Wine is a mystery to me. What’s crystal clear, however, is that rock and roll knows no geographic boundaries. How a band from Italy comes out sounding like The Sidewinders and Green On Red crossed with classic-era Stones isn’t important, the fact that they do is what matters.

The Green On Red references are everywhere – the band’s name comes from a Dan Stuart song (covered on their CD A Better Place) and both guitar players have obviously listened to a lot of lyrical players like Chuck Prophet. “Walkin Away”, available on MP3, finds the quartet sailing out of the gate with a drum-propelled rocker that features harmonic guitar lines from Marco and Michele Diamantini; Rich Hopkins fans will do double-takes. “A Better Place” and “Dark Angels” explore the acoustically darker, Cowboy Junkies play “Sweet Jane” area of the aural soundscape.

The vocals are sung in English, and Marco does not have a strong or classic voice, but he conveys emotion that matches well with the material. As a testament to good taste, they list their favorite bands on the “thank you” page of the CD booklet, and if your record collection were limited to those artists, you’d be in good hands. Repeated plays only endear me further.

Visit the Cheap Wine website.

***

And Happy Birthday to Stan Laurel. Laurel and Hardy were an amazing comedy team; Stan Laurel was a great gag writer and a brilliant physical comedian with impeccable timing, and Oliver Hardy was a vastly underrated comic and straight man. Together they were magic.  Pull out a film of theirs tonight, or if you don’t have time, read the eulogy that Dick Van Dyke gave at Stan’s funeral and smile at his memory.

Also on this day, the fifty-first anniversary of the still suspicious death of George Reeves, TV’s Superman. I grew up watching that series on television in New York City not realizing that the “Man of Steel” was already dead. I’ve heard every story –  from a depressed suicide to a stoned attempt to really fly out a window to a vengeful murder. Perhaps one day the truth will surface.

Today is also the fortieth anniversary of the death of football player Brian Piccolo, whose story and relationship with teammate Gale Sayers was immortalized in the movie Brian’s Song. Excellent performances from (the always reliable) James Caan and Billy Dee Williams.

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