Wednesday, May 7, 2014

me and graham

As mentioned, a few thoughts regarding Graham Parker. Fair warning, though: it's kind of stream-of-consciousness.

I first got interested in Graham Parker's music because his backing band, the Rumour, included Martin Belmont who had been in Ducks Deluxe. I loved the Ducks and was exploring the world of music by expanding out from act to related act. The first album I bought by Parker was Another Grey Area, which actually didn't involve the Rumour. That wasn't his best work, and I didn't really take to it. I like it better now than I did then. Even though I didn't care for the album, I still bought his earlier ones (which did include the Rumour), since I was a bit of a completist. I guess I still am, but not as obsessively so.

I liked the early albums better (and now I love some of them -- especially Heat Treatment) but he just didn't make it to the top tier in my book. That level was occupied by Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Wreckless Eric. Over the years I picked up tyhe albums he did with the Rumour, and some of the solo albums as well (if I found them cheap). But I never really liked his music as much as I wanted to.

But that changed in the last few years. A few things happened. For one, I have come to better accept the mellowing of his music. I think I owe that to Nick Lowe. When he started his transition to crooner, I didn't like it. At one point, seeing an article that referred to his new style as "Americana" I joked with a friend that that must be another way of saying "Adult Boring." But my brain had hooked itself on Nick's voice, so it was able to make the transition and I slowly started appreciating Nick's new incarnation. That effectively helped my brain to appreciate Parker, who had also mellowed with age. So, when there were solo albums of stripped down versions of his early angry material, I was able to get my head around them. I realize that this may sound nutty, but I believe that's a big part of how the brain reacts.

More recently, Parker recorded an album, Your Country, with a version "Crawling from the Wreckage." Crawling was a song of Paerker's that Dave Edmunds had recorded for his album, Repeat When Necessary, which many people consider to be his best. I had to buy that. And, whicle I was dissapointed in the new version of the song, there was enough good material on the album to get me to notice Parker again. His next album, Songs of No Consequence, was a spectacular tour de force. He saounded angry again, and I loved it.

But what I like even better than his newer material are live recordings from his days with the Rumour. Which gets me to my recent support for a Kickstarter project that involved putting together a six-disc set of concerts. That box set reminded me of Graham at his greatest.

A couple concert videos for your enjoyment:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

jolene at 33

Dolly Parton's single, "Jolene" played at 33 RPM. I find it oddly compelling.

In case you're interested for comparison purposes,  here's what it sounds like at full speed.

Monday, May 5, 2014

an award-winning letter

Going through some papers, I came across this, from the letters to the editor section of the Ann Arbor News, some time in June of 1988.

Back then I was a graduate student in the PhD program in mathematics at the University of Michigan. And, lest anyone say that I am trying to give a false impression, I state here clearly that I did not finish a PhD. I left with a Masters degree after two years and became an actuary.

My hobby at that point was writing letters to the letters sections of newspapers and magazines. That was a hobby that started in December, 1983 and lasted about ten years. I would go out of my way looking through magazines and newspapers to find things to write about. Some not so much. Some were sent under my real name, and some under a variety of pseudonyms.  This one was prompted by a tongue-in-cheek article about a rash of Elvis sightings, and -- if memory serves -- a book that came out claiming that Elvis was alive and living an anonymous life.

The icing on the cake came that winter, when the News selected my letter as being among their best of 1988. So, yes, gentle reader, I am an award-winning letter writer.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

more purchases from amazon

Last week my wife asked about a couple books that she wanted to get from Amazon. And, of course, I couldn't resist adding a few CDs to the order. I stopped at four. They were (in the order that I received them -- and note that this is not intended to be read as reviews):

Graham Parker: Imaginary Television
This album has been on my radar and in my Amazon shopping cart for quite a while, but I kept not buying it. That's kind of symptomatic of my relationship with Graham Parker's music. I'd like to devote a post to that. No promises. But since I want to devote a whole posty to it, I won't get into it now. Anyway, I heard a track -- "It's My Party (But I Won't Cry) -- on Pandora, and liked it enough that I wanted to buy the album.The album itself has a peculiar conceit. Each song is the hypothetical theme for an imaginary TV show. And in the liner notes, in stead of lyrics, Parker includes descriptions of the show. It's kind of pretentious if you ask me, but the music's good. So I'll try to go easy on it.

Puffy AmiYumi: Spike
Puffy AmiYumi is a Japanese pop duo. They're kind of disposable, but the music is infectious and fun. I wanted to buy a different album -- Splurge -- on the strength of one track "Call Me What You Like (If You Like Rock and Roll)," which I'd heard on Pandora. Somehow, I had a hard time finding Splurge. I found this album for a low price (used), so added it to my cart. Of course, I found Splurge before I placed my order, so I bought that too.

John Otway: Under the Covers and Over the Top
I'm kind of an Otway fan. Not a huge fan. But kind of a fan. Years ago, I got his record, Deep Thought, on Stiff Records -- I was pretty much trying to buy anything on Stiff that I could find. I loved his cover o
f "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" on that album. And there were other great songs -- "Beware of the Flowers 'Cos I'm Sure They're Gonna Get You, Yeh" comes to mind. I loved Otway's loopy delivery. Anyway, I already have a two-disc compilation of his, and that's pretty much got what I need. But I saw this -- an album of covers. Since I'm a sucker for a well-done cover I couldn't resist. It wasn't quite as good as I was hoping for, but remember -- I say that having had very high hopes. My favorite track is "I Will Survive, which Otway turns in while imitating Bob Dylan.
Puffy AmiYumi: Splurge
This is the P AY album I wanted to get. Like Spike, it's part English and part Japanese. But it's pretty consistently fun.