Archive for September 2011
The Hollies: Look Through Any Window 1963-1975
184 Minutes, NTSC, 4:3 Screen Format
Release Date: October 4, 2011
A delicious dollop of ‘sixties pop confection will be offered up on Tuesday, October 4 as Eagle Vision and Reeling In The Years add another British Invasion title to their catalogs. Previous films documented Dusty Springfield, Herman’s Hermits, Gerry and The Pacemakers, with my favorite being a mind blowing DVD of Small Faces performances. This time The Hollies are the focus of attention with “Look Through Any Window, 1963-1975”. As the title suggests, the group – most noted for their tight Everlys-esque harmony vocals – had a worldwide string of hits spanning more than a decade. The 22 songs represented here include era defining tunes like “Bus Stop”, “Carrie Anne” and “The Air That I Breathe”. In many cases (mostly with the mid-sixties hits) we are treated to live performances from European television appearances. Hearing The Hollies’ recreate their exceptional vocal recordings in a live setting makes this disc a real treasure.
Long Cool Career
Presented in chronological format the DVD views the band from its origins in the childhood friendship of Graham Nash and Allan Clarke and includes newly filmed interviews with both as well as guitarist Tony Hicks and drummer Bobby Elliott. Chats feature interesting anecdotes on song origins, recording sessions and the inevitable personnel changes. Most famously we all know that Nash left his band, his country and his wife in December of 1968 and within three days of the up-rooting was recording the first CSN album. Keep in mind that the first single from that ground breaking Laurel Canyon/Woodstock generation album was Nash’s Hollies transplant “Marrakesh Express”.
Particularly exciting are the 1967 clips from EMI studios capturing the band recording “On A Carousel”. The soloed vocals on that session make one wish that the producers had been able to offer vocal only bonus tracks as they did on several of their Motown features. Abbey Road fan-boys will melt at the sound of the famous in-house echo chamber, as produced by the late Ron Richards. A clip of Tony Hicks tracking his guitar part from the same session reveals him as the quintessential mod poster boy; a blueprint for Blur and Oasis decades later. Additionally pristine color footage of the band at their most “fab” lip synching “Baby That’s All” and “Here I Go Again” from the 1964 pop music flick U.K. Swings Again will you leave you “gob-smacked” by its clarity. Catch the holly sprig on the front of Bobby’s bass drum.
This DVD’s overview ends in 1975 but the band continued to pull some radio play into the early 1980’s. Allan Clarke, to his credit, attempted to draw attention to a young Jersey boy by the name of Bruce. During his solo hiatus in the ’70s Clarke recorded “Blinded By The Light”, “Born To Run” and “If I Were the Priest”. They were stalled for release by record company dallying until well after his prescience would be valued. The Hollies did manage a lovely take on “The Boss’s” “Sandy” so it was no surprise when E Streeter Miami Steve Van Sant inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2010. Hicks and Elliott continue to tour under The Hollies moniker to this day. They couldn’t be at the HOF induction; they had already booked a Hollies’ gig in London.
The DVD comes packaged with a 12 page color booklet that features a thorough biography by Ben Fong Torres extolling the virtues of this often overlooked band. The center spread highlights a staggering array of album covers, 45 RPM picture sleeves and concert posters. All of the songs featured during the course of the film are available as complete performances in the bonus section, no chat, no voice-overs.
As mentioned above, vocals only bonus tracks would have been a revelation based on the snippet of “On A Carousel” we do get to hear. I’ll venture that the source being EMI this would have been a prohibitive task. On the interview side, some current words from Terry Sylvester, who joined on Nash’s departure, would have been welcome also. His vocals added so beautifully to the lush arrangements of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, “The Air That I Breathe”, “Long Dark Road” and kept the band’s classic sound intact in their latter days. He also recorded an excellent self-titled solo album in 1974, produced by Ron Richards and engineered by Alan Parsons.
Classic music clips like these now packaged in Director David Peck’s beautifully mounted series were once solely the mainstay of fan conventions like BeatlesFest. We were thrilled to sit in a hotel ballroom once a year for the chance to glimpse even the most beat to heck 16mm copies of these gems. Unlike some of the slap dash compilations of disparate styles and varying quality you’ll find on the DVD bargain shelves, Reeling In the Years and Eagle Rock serve them up with historical context, fresh interviews, and nice packaging at a “how can you pass it up” price point. The four previous British Invasion titles can be found in a slip cased package which includes a bonus DVD loaded with additional goodies.
Purchase on Amazon.
The Hollies: Look Through Any Window 1963-1975
At this moment in time, over one hundred years after its first publication, “Dracula” is so ingrained in the cultural conscious that it seems hard to imagine a time when the tale of the blood quaffing Count did not exist. In its seven year gestation the story began life as a stage play with the choice role intended for the actor Henry Irving whom author Abraham (Bram) Stoker revered and managed. Bram was crestfallen when Irving passed on mounting the play but completed his vision as a novel which has never been out of print since. The eventual adaption of the book via stage and film versions has since made Count Dracula a familiar character to nearly everyone on the planet.
“Dracula, The Vampire and the Voivode”, a documentary DVD from Virgil Films and Walking Shadows, is an enjoyable look at both the mythological entity of Stoker’s imagination and the actual historical figure, Vlad Tepes, who has become intwined with it. Part biography and part travelogue it serves as an excellent visual companion to Dracula overviews like David J Skal’s “Hollywood Gothic” and Florescu & McNally’s “In Search of Dracula”, though it stands to refute some of the assumptions of the latter. The film was written and directed by Michael Bayley Hughes.
Viewers are taken on a scenic jaunt through the areas of the world intrinsically tied to the lives of author Stoker and Voivode (Prince) Vlad, as well as key sights described in the book including the 199 church steps in Whitby, England and the town of Bistrita where Jonathan Harker spends the night before his trip to Castle Dracula. We also see The Stoker’s residence at 27 Cheyne Walk in London’s Chelsea section (neighborhood of contemporary author Oscar Wilde and one hundred years later Rolling Stone Keith Richards), and Bram’s family home in Dublin Ireland where he spent a sickly childhood.
Throughout the film members of worldwide Stoker and Dracula societies lend their scholarship and insights to the settings. I was fascinated to hear commentator Tina Rath suggest that Pre-Raphaelite Artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s scandalous exhumation of his wife Lizzie (nee Siddal), in order to retrieve a book of poems he buried with her, likely became tied to Lucy Westenra’s exhumation/staking, as well as a plot point in another of Stoker’s stories, “The Secret of the Growing Gold”. Transylvanian Society of Dracula President Nicolae Paduraru describes the finer points of the folkloric stregoi, a ghostly “negative emanation from the grave”, versus the physical figure of the vampire and their cultural lines of demarcation.
From the Land Beyond, Beyond…
The film also candidly deals with the dichotomy of historical veracity versus bottom line tourism necessitated in post communist Transylvania, the “land beyond the forest”. In actuality, Stoker never visited that part of the world but instead relied heavily on travel tomes by authors like Emily Gerard, the wife of a Romanian army officer who spent two years there, for his information. Combining a freewheeling imagination with his civil service skills for cataloging and description, Stoker’s interpolation of folklore, sense of place, and creative license has led to many fact versus fiction conundrums, which the documentary attempts to untangle. As we see commerce often trumps accuracy. The building of a tourist placebo, the Stoker inspired Castle Dracula hotel, at the Borgo Pass in Romania is just one example of the life imitating art circumstances that have followed in the story’s path.
On the down side, the DVD is without marked scene selections, so navigating for specific repeat play is daunting and it seems a shame its vistas are presented in 4:3 aspect ratio rather than widescreen. The “bonus slide show” is superfluous at best, giving an unfortunate “sell-through” feel to what is otherwise an excellent product.
Ah, Fall has arrived and it was fun to get the witching season off to such a great start. Minus the few missteps mentioned above, I wholeheartedly enjoyed this dual biography, especially the description of Stoker’s writing process and the “where ideas came from” points of view. In fact it led me to purchase a copy of “Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula” as transcribed and annotated by Robert Eighteen-Bisang & Elizabeth Miller. I can recommend the film for both its historical depth and entertainment value as an addition to the video libraries of vampire aficionados and novices alike.
I’ve been carrying a camera for about two thirds of my life, but also slinging a guitar for around the same amount of time. These are two very dangerous vocations when it comes to what is known in tech/hardware obsessed circles as G.A.S. or Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Therefore, walking onto what is normally the concert floor of Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl on Sunday, September 18 was not for the faint of heart guitar fan or the “G.A.S.sy”. Being surrounded by row after row of gorgeous Gibsons, Fenders, Gretsches and a unique selection of boutique six strings and basses was overwhelming. Where do you look first? How do you take it all in? Don’t you NEED one of each?
The 2011 Autumn Guitar Show offered free access to peruse the wears of vintage shops as well as new guitar, effects and amp builders. It was exciting to see so many young luthiers with their diverse visions of the perfect instrument. See the links below to their websites. During the course of the afternoon I spied Steely Dan’s Walter Becker casually chatting with the vendors, metal stalwart Kenny Pierce representing his PiercingMetal webzine, his coverage of the show can be read here. Good friend Tommy F. was heralding the soon to be available on the East Coast Lang Amplifier line. Guitar Wear designer Jodi Head was there with her delicious array of beautifully rendered straps and accessories. The black leather with conchos and the briar rose pattern (pictured below) were two of my favorites.
Congratulations to promoters/coordinators Lisa Sharken (Vintage Guitar Magazine) and DJ Uncle Mike on a great show. It was fun to mingle and chew the fat with like minded folks in a nice relaxed atmosphere that reminded me of the earliest days of Comic Cons (1969-70). A total SkeletonPete hat trick. Family bowling on the lanes, Kelso Nut Brown Lager on the taps, and a sea of curvaceous six strings. I hope guitar goddess Lisa and the gang do this again soon.
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Learning to Live Together
It could have been an easy call for New Yorkers to stay home, avoid major gathering places, public transit and traffic checkpoints, on the eve of 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attack. Yet looking around me during the sold out show in Manhattan’s Beacon Theater, it was clear that no one stayed home, every-seat was filled. That is until the Tedeschi Trucks Band hit the chorus of the second song in their set, a great cover of “Space Captain”, and the audience spontaneously got to their feet singing the refrain “learning to live together” and pretty much stayed on their toes until the end of the night.
I attended this show with no intention of reporting on it. I reviewed the TTB debut album Revelator earlier in the year, really loved it and just intended to sit back and enjoy without taking notes or photos. Arriving home it felt totally remiss to overlook the opportunity to comment on just how good the performance was.
Pass The Jam (on the left hand side)
Based on The Beacon presentation I can state with certainty that every song from the studio album has been eclipsed by its performance on stage; utterly elevated, transformed and liberated. The band is tight and intuitive, confident in its ability to expand and contract sections at will, unafraid to wind its way from swamp rock to outre jazz. It’s loose enough to give the jam fans a good dose of experimentation but not so jammy as to lose the intent of the song. All 11 musicians are at the top of their game both individually and as a unit. It was particularly fun to watch brothers Oteil and Kofi Burbridge (Bass and Organ, respectively) playing off each other at their end of the stage.
Throughout the night Derek coaxed searing then subtle lead lines out of his Gibson SG, sometimes teasing the audience with bits of familiar Allman’s melodies then aiming his sites on the heart of the sun for some modal John Coltrane like explorations. The unexpected segue between their rowdy rendition of Delaney and Bonnie’s “Coming Home” and the moody opening of “Midnight In Harlem” was breathtaking in its artfulness. Susan’s voice has taken on an extra level of soul and her evocative delivery sends shivers up your spine. “Until You Remember” and “Learn How to Love” were powerful and visceral, she appropriately offered “Shelter” as a prayer to New Yorkers at this time of memorial.
Funk Soul Brothers (and Sister)
Taking advantage of their full horn section TTB have internalized the deep funk of the 60’s and early 70’s making renditions of Sly and The Family Stone hits “Sing A Simple Song” and “I Want To Take You Higher” feel like their own. It doesn’t hurt to have singer Mike Mattison (whose own Scrapomatic opened the evening) channeling Sister Rose on the high end of the vocal range. Mike also shared a duet with Susan on the Derek and the Dominoes tune “Anyday”. A personal fave, Stevie Wonder’s 1966 hit “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”, was another special surprise.
I doubt I will see a more cohesive or exciting performance this year or one more joyfully shared by the audience. If you have a chance to experience TTB as their tour continues don’t miss them.
New York City has so many wonderful art and cultural institutions of international note that, even as a life long New Yorker, it is difficult to see beyond the “majors”. MOMA, The MET, Natural History, Guggenheim and my Brooklyn Museum all vie in a very high profile way for your attention, membership and donations. Every once in a while through some serendipity you get introduced to a hidden gem in that cultural landscape and wonder “how did this escape me” for so long. My recent visit to the Nicholas Roerich Museum was just such a case.
Ascending Mount Analogue
I am slightly embarrassed to admit that my first introduction to the personage of Nicholas Roerich was only a few weeks back and sparked in a very unexpected way. I’ve recently started to reread the works of writer H. P. Lovecraft; stories I had not visited since I was a teenager. Lovecraft is the horror genre writer whose Cthulhu & Old Ones mythos is intertwined through many of his short stories. I read the “Case of Charles Dexter Ward” with great enthusiasm; “The Colour Out Of Space” which was the inspiration for the latter day Boris Karloff film “Die, Monster, Die” that I saw on my 12th birthday. I next settled on digesting the novella length “At The Mountains of Madness”, a story which recently failed to be green-lighted by both Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures for production under Guillermo Del Toro and James Cameron.
Along with the cosmic creatures at the heart of Lovecraft’s mythology there are serial allusions to fictional characters and texts such as the “mad arab” Abdul Alhazred and the evil tome called The Necronimicon. So when the narrator of ATMoM mentions the Antarctic landscapes remind him of the paintings of Roerich I believed the artist to be an equally fictional character of Lovecraft’s design. Days later a bit of curiosity and a quick hop onto Wikipedia proved me wrong. I was thrilled to learn that a short subway ride to uptown Manhattan would put me face to face with a large sampling of his works at The Roerich Museum, a lovely townhouse setting near Riverside Drive.
Roerich was a prodigious painter, a stage set and costume designer, a writer and scientist. He was also an advocate for the sanctity of the cultural arts throughout the world. The “peace through culture” symbol of three red dots set in a circle has come to be adopted as the “Red Cross” banner of the arts and in the 1930’s came to represent the proposed Roerich Pact. The Pact, a set of guidelines formulated to foster the preservation of cultural heritage over military necessity has been ratified by many countries over several decades, though not universally accepted at this time. In order to promote the expansion of these values Roerich was inevitably embroiled in the world of politics and to this day two distinct camps view him as either a forward thinking aesthete or a mystical mountebank.
I will leave you to do your own research on the life of Nicholas Roerich. There is plenty to be gleaned online and many books both by and about him available. While his visions of Alpinism are what initiated my serendipitous discovery of his work, it is his pantheistic symbolist pieces I find most interesting. What I will stress is the beauty of the painted works outside their political times and the impossibility of experiencing their depth anything but first hand. There are several nicely illustrated books of his art but what the page renders flat and cartoon like I found to be imbued with a vibrancy of color beyond what I thought could be achieved in tempera paint. “Pink Mountains”, “Burning The Dark”, “Elijah, the Prophet” and “Saint Sophia, the Almighty Wisdom”, all on view at the museum, are particularly stunning in their luminance. A sweet surprise of seeing the original “Glory to the Hero” is that its cloister arches are actually incorporated into its wooden frame.
Posthumous thanks to Mr. Howard Phillips Lovecraft for this enlightenment. Hope this posting sparks your interest as well.
Addendum: Sept. 5. 2011
Thanks to David Haden for historical context on the Roerich and Lovecraft connection in his comment below. His insights into the arcana of HPL can be gleaned in several books he’s written on the subject. They can be found here, in physical and ethereal (eReader) formats.
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