Saturday, July 26, 2008

Think Fast, Steely Dan

A few nights ago, I finally got to see Steely Dan in concert at the minty fresh Nokia Theater across the street from Staples Center. First off, the venue is pristine. The sound is the best in town and they boast two hi-def screens that flank the stage. Not that the Dan are much to look at, but they are such fantastic performers, I got a kick out of seeing them "up close." Don Fagen channels Ray Charles by way of Transylvania. A vampiric soul man? Darn tootin'. And Walter Becker? He's like a Gerry Anderson Super-Marionette. His head and arms seemed to move independently as his body remained planted in place. But those guitar solos! Walter killed on FM. Steely Dan do come across well on stage. Don is a hoot and Walter does a deadpan that Dan Aykroyd's Elwood Blues could only dream of.

As for the set. It wasn't chock full of greatest hits. They did pull out their pop hits Hey Nineteen and Peg; but the show was mainly a gift to their albums' fans. The "Think Fast" Orchestra featured a four piece horn section, three female backing singers, keyboard player, a featured guitarist... and possibly the sickest drummer I've ever heard. When he was done with the drum solo from Aja, my jaw had been on the floor for several minutes.

The show started sans Becker and Fagen, with the big band playing hot instrumental versions of Everyone's Gone To The Movies and The Fez. Our duo strutted onto the stage with their chorus to The Royal Scam. The highlights for me were plenty. Showbiz Kids is as timely as ever. Steely Dan repeated the last verse for emphasis.

"Show biz kids making movies of themselves.
You know they don't give a f*** about anybody else."

Ah, Celebutantes... Fagen had your number thirty-five years ago.

Of course, hearing Peg and Kid Charlemagne live was outstanding (Modern hip-hop audiences know these tunes from sampling: De La Soul & Kanye West, respectively). Fagen's New Frontier from his solo disc The Nightfly was another favorite. The song has been playing in my head while I sleep for several weeks. Well, here's the set list:

Everyone's Gone To The Movies
The Fez
The Royal Scam
I Got The News
Show Biz Kids
Everything You Did
Two Against Nature
Hey Nineteen
Godwhacker
Glamour Profession
New Frontier
Gaucho [sung by Becker]
Babylon Sisters
Parker's Band
Third World Man
Josie
Aja
(Your Love Is Like) An Itchin' In My Heart [Band introductions]
Peg
Kid Charlemagne

encore:
Don't Take Me Alive
FM (No Static At All)

The fact that I was thrilled by this show and Steely Dan neglected to play my 5 favorite Dan songs (Reeling In The Years, Any Major Dude Will Tell You, Bad Sneakers, My Old School and Deacon Blues) speaks volumes about their canon and their entertainment chops. Nearly two hours of sublime jazz rock pop.

I got to thinking about the summer of 1988 when I started buying CDs. A Decade Of Steely Dan was one of the first I purchased. Shortly after that, I got a copy of The Nightfly (the first digitally recorded pop album) for Christmas. Mike or Mark gave it to me. Shame I can't remember. I'm sure they will tell me.

Thanks Steely Dan... and Think Fast!

Peace & Jazz

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Han Solo

Today is Harrison Ford's 66th birthday. Mr. Ford holds a dear place in my movie-going memory. Yes, I saw the new Indiana Jones movie after coming back from the UK. It was alright, but basically a pastiche of the original. The two big characters Harrison created rank among the most influential and coolest in my reckoning. No one has come close to Han Solo's effortless hipness nor Dr. Jones' wry heroism.

From 1977 to 1985, I went out of my way to see every movie starring Harrison Ford that I could. That meant many viewings of the western/Yiddish comedy the Frisco Kid as well as the innovative Blade Runner. I used to wait with baited breath for the opening of a new Harrison Ford movie. Mom used to take me straight from school on a Friday afternoon to see an Indiana Jones or Star Wars film the day it opened. Of course, my favorite memory was going to an advance screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark in Cleveland. I passed up going to the big end of the year party for the 6th grade to see Raiders. And I have no regrets. I didn't even know what Ark was missing; all I knew was this was Harrison Ford's new movie! It was such fun and still holds up as one of the best action flicks ever.

Mr. Ford's recent movies (i.e. anything the past decade) have not been among my favorites, but I'll put his Golden Age (ending with Witness, his only Oscar nominated performance) up against any other actor's. He's a true movie star. Happy Birthday, Harrison!

Peace & Making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Magic

My 500th blog. Thanks for stopping by!

Late last night I discovered that there is one more great Summer album. Bruce Springsteen's Magic. There are records that immediately evoke a place and time for me. I thought I might not find another Summer set. Music has gone so far down hill in general. There are some good singles, but few entire albums that hit the mark.

Magic was released last October to much fanfare and debuted at Number 1. The lead single Radio Nowhere wasn't a killer, even though it was a freebie on iTunes. So I didn't pay any more attention to the record. Combine that with the fact that Bruce was pretty well snubbed by the Grammys in the major categories.

Then around Christmas, I heard Bruce's second single The Girls In Their Summer Clothes. Now that it is the dog days, TGITSC is magnificent. The true test was listening to the CD in my car with the windows rolled down on a warm July night as I ran some evening errands. Brilliant. Shimmering. It's like a night-time carnival of sound. I'm looking forward to hearing it in broad day light. Livin' In The Future and You'll Be Coming Down are equally appealing. It's also fun to hear Bruce in great voice really digging for smoother vocal performances than usual. The slower moments are powerful, too. The album closer Terry's Song is a touching eulogy punctuated with the refrain: "When they built you, Brother, they broke the mold."

Bruce sure can write a great pop song when he wants to. My only quibble with the record is that it is over-compressed in places. I know Springsteen likes that Wall Of Sound aesthetic, but sometimes it can be too much for the digital age. When the E Street Band kicks into high gear though, the performances are undeniable. I haven't been this enthralled by Bruce since Born In The USA. I did get to see him and the Band at Dodger Stadium a few Summers back. Wish he was coming to town again to hear these songs in a live setting. Oh, well.

So for my record buying friends, this is a great back porch record or apartment balcony blaster. Albums like this were born to be soundtracks to BBQs. Better yet, cruise down the boulevard around 9 tonight with all the windows down and let the breeze cool you off and the Magic heat you up. I know I will on the way home from work. It's not a party album, but it does rock and roll and hits me right to the core.

Got a recent LP that shouts "Summer Album?" Drop me a comment.

Speaking of cooling off, time for a haircut. Gotta run.

Peace & Summer Breezes

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Summer Breeze Makes Me Feel Fine

Lately,
I have been having plenty of trouble with MySpace. I can barely log on without the site crashing my computer. Or without spyware leeching through the pages. I hope that if any of you are visiting me via MySpace that you are not encountering these problems. It's been very frustrating as you might imagine. Anyway, you should still be able to check out the song samples and leave comments there. It might take me a while to respond, but that's why.

Right now, I'm listening to Handel's Water Music. Nice and relaxing. I'm hopeful that the worst of the Summer heat is done. There's a cool wind refreshing NoHo. Between the high temps and food poisoning last week, I was done right in. Thanks again to everyone for their prayers and well-wishing.

Tonight, I attended a nice function at church. Dining on grilled hot dogs and crock pot chili. After dinner al fresco, a bunch of us watched August Rush. A very nicely done fable about an orphan who is a musical prodigy. August believes if enough people hear his music that his real parents will be able to find him. Suitable for all ages, obviously (it was church, people). But it does feature Robin Williams channeling the villainous Finnigan from Dickens' Oliver Twist.

What else is new? Well, with Tiger out of action, I'm making my move! I've returned to golf for the first time in over 20 years. Been hitting the driving range. I'm not planning on playing in the British Open. But I'm hoping to get onto an 18 hole course by the beginning of August. It's been fun getting back in to the swing. Literally. It's like learning from scratch. The first couple of times I went to the range, I was trying to bash the ball. My approach was all wrong. But I've loosened up and have started hitting fairly straight.

OK, MySpace is still giving my PC fits. I need to concentrate on a solution.

Have a great week, all.

Peace & Summer Breeze

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Pizened!

Hey all,
just checking in here on the blog. It's been a long hot Summer for the first two weeks of it. I've been really out of sorts. Got a nasty case of food poisoning on Tuesday that has lingered up to the present. No fun at all. Nothing like several hours in the ER getting an IV. And a return visit might be in store.

Interest seems to be building in my upcoming gigs which helps lighten the mood. But seriously, watch what you order when you're dining out.

Hope your 4th of July was safe and fun. I did get to see a dozen fireworks last night.

Peace & Health