Tag Archives: Randy Newman

T.G.I.F. – Ten Tunes of Freedom

On this particular day I guess I could use the theme of racing or fast food or even the Beach Boys for TGIF since Richard Petty, Dave (Wendy’s) Thomas and Murry Wilson were all born on July 2nd.

But on July 2nd, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. That pretty much trumps everything else in my book. It’s astounding to realize that event was only forty-six years ago and not forty-six hundred; it’s also frightening to realize that despite those proclamations, we still live in a world of inequality and civil unrest in 2010.

Read about the legislation here…interesting to note that even in 1964 the Senators and Representatives from the Southern states were almost unanimously opposed to it. Think what you want to about LBJ, but he took it upon himself to honor the promise that had been initiated by John F Kennedy and get it done, even though that meant standing up against the coalition of his fellow Southerners.

For example, Senator (and former Ku Klux Klan member!) Robert Byrd, who ironically passed away this week, filibustered against the bill with a speech that lasted over 14 hours. You would think that would have killed him, but he was still representing West Virginia until his death last week. (Maybe he still is; they’re not the most progressive state in the Union).

But within the scope of today’s theme, I will wish Brock Peters a Happy Birthday. Among other roles, Peters is probably most famous for playing Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird, a film I first watched in high school (after we read the Harper Lee novel, of course). It’s one of the most beloved American films in history and features Gregory Peck’s iconic performance as lawyer and über father-figure Atticus Finch. I saw the film for probably the twentieth time a couple of weeks ago; I’m certain more viewings lie ahead.

And in the spirit of this I give you ten tunes about  freedom and independence and equality…enjoy your July 4th weekend!

Peace...

(01) “This Land Is Your Land” (Pete Seeger with Bruce Springsteen)

(02) “People Got To Be Free” (The Rascals)

(03) “The Revolution Starts Now” (Steve Earle)

(04) “What’s Going On?” (Marvin Gaye)

(05) “Rednecks” (Randy Newman)

(06) “Imagine” (John Lennon)

(07) “People Get Ready” (Curtis Mayfield)

(08) “Get Together” (The Youngbloods)

(09) “Eve of Destruction” (Barry McGuire)

(10) “Abraham, Martin and John” (Dion)

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Under The Radar: Franklin Bruno

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Lo-fi. Indie. Minimalist. Sparse. DIY. 

No, no, no.you’re thinking Elephant 6 or Lou Barlow or Elliot Smith. Let me try again. 

Pensive. Ironic. Wry. Subtle. Original. 

Ahh, now we have it. Franklin Bruno is a witty writer whose stripped down songs toss the focus onto his sterling wordplay where it belongs. You will have to sail some obtuse melodies and offbeat vocals on occasion, but it’s a journey worth taking.** 

As you know, I sometimes hit the music library and pull out a title that’s either a great old memory, a lesser-known artist, or sometimes both. And then I write a new essay and perhaps link to an old one and suggest you give a listen. Often times I’m pretty clear about what happened to the artist since then; often they’re pretty well known or perhaps joined a different group that attained success. 

But sometimes I have no idea. Such is the case with Franklin Bruno, who at the time I felt drew small comparisons to witty songwriters like Randy Newman, Martin Mull and Loudon Wainwright III. So after a listen to Kiss Without Makeup I was curious to find out. 

Looks like he continued to release more music on Absolute Kosher. There’s another album that came out not long afterwards and a collection of songs from over the next decade. 

And I guess my Elvis Costello reference in my original review bore some merit. Bruno wrote about Armed Forces for the 33 1/3 (Thirty-Three and a Third) book series. According to these Amazon reviews, it’s much like his music you either like it or you don’t. 

He’s a fellow music scribe, working for the Village Voice and Salon, among others. (Since we underpaid hooligans don’t have union meetings or annual conventions, it’s not always a given that our paths cross.) 

He went on to get his doctorate from UCLA and he is (or was) the visiting Professor of Philosophy at Bard College? Sweet job, although I know he must be freezing hs ass off walking across the quad with that wind whipping off the Hudson. Perhaps someday they will show prospective students some of his work as they tour the campus. (When I made the rounds I was baited with projects by Chevy Chase and Donald Fagen.) 

So Franklin Bruno has continued firmly down the path of arts and academia, which is a good thing. I’ll have to circle back and check out some of the music I missed, and I recommend that you at least give Kiss Without Makeup a try. 

** Continue reading that decade old review at PopMatters

His page at Absolute Kosher.

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Under The Radar – Howling Diablos

Gonna do me some howlin'...

Gonna do me some howlin'...

If you have heard of The Howling Diablos and have been enjoying their stew of soul, funk, rock and blues, I have one question to ask of you. Why didn’t you tell me sooner?

Al Kooper defined them as a cross between Howlin’ Wolf, Captain Beefheart and Canned Heat, and that’s a damned accurate description, although I’d add a healthy dash of Sly Stone and P-Funk to the mix. Tino Gross’ guttural growls spearhead their powerful sound, with the whipcrack rhythm of Mo Hollis on bass and the legendary Johnny “Bee” Badanjek on drums acting as a thundering pulse. The flavor is peppered by guitarist Erik Gustafson and harp/sax player Johnny Evans. It’s a gritty, urban street sound, tangents of Delta blues, hip-hop and even classic jazz brass bubbling up and popping for a sensual mix.

But yeah, baby, they do rock. How about “Gloria“?

The Howling Diablos have a handful of releases available (I can’t find their early release Beatnick Mambo): Car Wash, Live, Green Bottle, Christmas In Jail and this latest gumbo crockpot, Divine Trash Highway. Featuring guest spots from  Calvin Cooke (sweet sacred steel highlights the opener “If You Love Someone”), Vinnie Dombrowski, keyboardist Jimmy Bones and a host of Detroit luminaries (Bobby East!), this is an album that just oozes groove. “Check It Out” is a perfect example of soul/funk hybrid that makes it impossible to sit still, although it’s the kickin’ cut “Josephine” that really has me bobbing my head like a park pigeon

“Dodge Main” rocks as does the blues blower “Leaving In The Morning”, and even a fairly reverent cover of Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come” succeeds. I’m not as high on “Mom” and “Hobo Jungle”, but I will admit that the latter sounds like mid-period Jeff Beck crossed swords with Sun Ra. “Junkyard Jesus” sounds like the missing sibling of Marah’s brilliant track “Catfisherman” (really – play the two songs back to back – that’s a compliment to both tunes). And if you’re not skanking to the title track…well, there’s something wrong with you.

In addition, they’re included on the Sun Records tribute Good Rockin Tonight (the Diablos cut “Wine Spo Dee O Dee” with a guest appearance from Kid Rock) which led to a film for the American Masters series on PBS that includes a performance by the band. (Reportedly Kid Rock – then Robert Ritchie – was a band member in the embryonic days when the nucleus of the band got together to jam and back up other artists).

Tino Gross also produces records for Fat Possumis that enough cred for you? But as much as their albums are rump-quaking, ass-shaking, rocking good times, like most bands they turn it up several notches when they hit the stage. They’ve toured with and opened for a ton of bands, and although I have yet to sweat in the same room with these guys – and I will – there are visual testaments out there thanks to Al Gore’s invention. All it will take is one song to convince you…check out this video for the song Car Wash. Folks, this is greasy.

Start howlin’!

Howling Diablos on MySpace.

Howling Diablos website.

Criminal Mind” video, from 2009 gig opening for J Geils.

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2008: Close, But No Cigar – Part 2

Close But No Cigaris my quick takes on albums that didn’t make it to my “best of” list this year but are still worth checking out. Some have a great song or two, many are consistently good but not great. Not quite “bridesmaids”, the “cigars” will slot somewhere south of #40 on the list when all is said and done. But that’s just one man’s ears talking. I’m hoping that you find an artist or three that knocks your socks off and/or rediscover something that you passed on earlier.

Part One featured ten albums. Here are ten more, in no particular order…

Who knows? Your mileage may vary...

Randy Newman:  Harps and Angels

Oddly, a combination of his early songwriting chops and vocal phrasing and his latter day (read: Disney) arrangements and orchestration. Meaning something for everyone; the approachability of the latter day material with more serious subject matter and wit for the long time fans. On the surface, almost the antithesis of Born Again, but all he’s really done is replace sarcasm with direct hits – Reaganomics still suck. Includes the brilliant “A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country”, a bookend to the early classic “Political Science” (which still resonates 37 years later). Stay away from the Mouse, Randy – we need more albums like this one.

 

Paul Westerberg:  49 Minutes Of Your Life

See what happens when you offer a new record as a download with no marketing, even a free download? Suffice it to say that by leveraging the release as one long track, Westerberg forces you to think album in a digital single age (oh the irony) and delivers a basement classic that will please both Mats and solo PW fans. It’s messy, it’s semi-derivative in spots, there are snippets of classic tunes and some random meanderings as if you’re along for the ride when his thoughts get clouded. Just like a Replacements concert, only less beer and fistfights.

click here to continue reading the full article…

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