The Freelance Mentalists.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
  Loan Me A Shadow
"Somebody loan me a dime/So I can call my old-time/Used-to-be."   Boz Scaggs sings Lowell Fulson's "Loan Me A Dime," while rising and falling in the  bosom of blues orchestration, which is well-fed as a family funeral guest. This is from the late 60s, more or less the same era as what I (with little exposure) regarded as the fat times of his fulsome Marin County homegrown elevator easy listening hippie make-out music (as I may have described it in terminal zine prose). But as this song begins,  his almost halting eloquence always accosts me, has me floating on the sidewalk several minutes later, when Duane Allman shows up, and the whole platoon moves from the pathos of the blues into its boldness, with no disturbance of the winter vibe. Somebody loans Scaggs a dime, he knows now he can fix things up with his baby, or maybe he buys a cup of coffee (then also a dime, in some quarters). Anyway, he's energized, but not overstating his case, at least not before the phone call, or whatever the next pitch might be. No big resolution of the story arc, but he's resolved, and going somewhere. Young John Lee Hooker can do that alone-together thing with his guitar, and his foot, as the rest of the '50s go off to a party: young old dude lying in the alley, muttering and gathering his strength, until he's ready to stalk some shadows .And there's no overcrowding in JLH's '72 version of "T.B. Sheets," here credited to Hooker as well as Van Morrison  It's on Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive, a roomy house party (with a couple of mornings way after mornings after). Guests include Morrison, Elvin Bishop, and in this case, Michael White's electric violin, wings over the bed, in the ceiling. All in Hooker's head, his ears, his chest, his room. Population one, and the sign's still up.      don allred
 
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
  jukebox reflection (passing by)
Good, intense thoughts about Whitney Houston  orbiting The Singles Jukebox nowadays, check it out. Here I am from the comments (awaiting moderation, might not make it through)
  1. When I first heard “Memories,” soon after the album came out, I had no idea who she was, but there was a sense of foreboding, and the sound of somebody very young who might just as well sing along with that disquieting voice (doesn’t quite sound like Lou, but who?), “Look out, the world’s behind you”–on “Sunday Morning,” the first track of the Velvet Underground’s first LP.  Awake far too early, and none too soon. "There is always someone around you who will call/It's nothing at all." Meanwhile in "Memories," the first note of Shepp’s solo seems too much, and what’s that artsy kitchen percussion for? But the singer and the song carry on, brushing me with a little chill. I’m up like that fairly often now, but I’m not really a morning person either, Whitney.
  2. Shepp carries on too, after the first note, and he can’t shake the breeze either.
  3. Update (from I Love Music messageboard:
  4. Just heard the last of a radio special on Whitney's actual music, with good tracks from her last album. No acrobatics, but steadfast and melodious: "Though I don't know if I'll make it through/I look to you." Anybody familiar with the whole album?
    dow, Saturday, 18 February 2012 02:04 (Yesterday) Permalink
    I Look to You is a very good album, it's quite understated in many ways - and her voice didn't just lose a lot in her "later" years (sounds so sad), it also gained something, as did her performance, in its roughness and grit. "I Look to You" is good, and "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" and "Nothin' But Love" are great songs, the latter produced by Danja, but nothing desperately-trying-to-be-modern about it (only "Million Dollar Bill" comes a bit close to that, perhaps). And there's more good tracks, and nothing that's out of place.
    --(name withheld) Saturday, 18 February 2012 (Yesterday)
  5. update: quite a different sort of take on  metamorphic Whitney,  from I Love Music visionary KJB,  now quoted in my  PPS to John Wojtowicz's classic coverage of a Mike Kelley exhibit, well-preserved here:
  6. http://thefreelancementalists.blogspot.com/2004/08/special-guest-mentalist-john-wojtowicz.html

 
Thursday, February 09, 2012
  Renaldo and Clara: Can This Marriage Be Saved?
Renaldo and Clara is currently streaming in its midwinter, mid-'70s, sufficiently sharp and spacey or spacy entirety, Rolling Thunder 'cross the YouTube. I haven't heard the Bootleg Series Rolling Thunder, don't know how  it compares with the movie's music (the old Hard Rain live LP has some good R Thunder performances). The flick's three hours-thirty-odd minutes, but very episodic, no prob with breaks. Though maybe such a bounty of episodes, jumping between live music and skits (or scenes, as some deserve to be called). got on nerves, especially those of reviewers, who were no doubt even more bombarded by Rolling Thunder hype than were us common readers of Rolling Stone, for major instance.
 (And some might well have said, Never mind the Rolling Thunder, when you can hear the rising tide of Punk, or at least feel the need.) 

Nevertheless, those with patience got and get mostly really good, already speculative re-arrangements of songs from early 60s to recent past, and the whole thing is also a continuation of the troubled relationship dynamic re Blood On The Tracks--not a rolling cinematic break-up album, but scenes (before and after a voice-over of tourmate Anne Waldman's "Fast Talking Woman"), with restless women,sometimes impulsive, sometimes ready to bargain, yet wry, sly, not buyin' any alibis (this time!), and somewhat befuddled men, the latter (and mebbe the former) inching towards middle-aged crazy (this might have gotten on nerves too).

Meanwhile, the already middle-aged men, like Ronnie Hawkins, Allen Ginsberg and Ramblin' Jack (ditto a certain  well-seasoned, singing, guitar-playing gypsy hostess) thrive in the spotlight. Lonesome campfire cowpoke Ramblin' Jack has no problem fronting a big old electric band (a generation before his album  A Stranger Here, where he's equally at home with the likes of Van Dyke Parks and David Hidalgo). Ginsberg recites from "Kaddish," one of his best long poems, in a hospitable mash-up with the tweaked beat of live "Love Minus Zero/No Limit", as Sarah D. delivers the word to a cabbie: time to throw Harry Dean Stanton a lifeline over the wall. He gets out, keeps doing great "Who Mee?" attempts at being casually on the lam, either before or after Dylan trades him Baez for a getaway horse. She settles down with Harry, explaining that the ever-budding Renaldo is like a jumpy burro, rolling stone etc.
(There's also that time that Baez and Sara-Clara gang up on the legendary Renaldo, brought to ground and tangled up in Rolling Bob. Finally, all he's got for an answer is a little [like,"Well-- Touché"] smile. Nice teeth.)

Folkie nostalgia, the middle-aged macho implications of then-recent Outlaw Country (before and after a Dylan & staff-targeted Columbia Records office guy blasting Willie's "Time of the Preacher"), even a tinge of Southern Rock, Scarlet Rivera's pre-Starbucks violin, visits to a Rez and urban New Jersey (African-Americans on the street discuss and sometimes argue about Hurricane Carter, who's also interviewed), Kerouac's grave and elsewhere in the neighborhood, flukey ambition---it's all mulch fiction of Dylan's turf, which is surprisingly juicy in (hindsight of) the Age of Punk and Disco after all (Gins also quite comfortably reading to the beat of the latter, and maybe the former, have to check again [so much slips through here]).

Only the late performance of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" seems ( though measured, so perhaps deliberately?) overdone, in terms of bellowing the chorus, despite previously unnoticed, maybe recently added details of sensitive piety (sung by McGuinn, natch) in the verses. Doctrinal implications now ride with  the usually universalist-seeming chorus, in context of possibly re-written verses, the whole song strapped to pale horse delivery, approaching sheer white light arena amplitude(compare this rendition to the much more agreeably affecting  performance on the '74 BD&TB tour's wonderful Before The Flood). Hindsight here also re-affirms (and re-invigorates) the impression that the Endless Tour, preceded  by cash and interest re-infusions via treks and slogs with The Band, Rolling Thunder, TP & Heartbreakers and the Grateful Dead (expectations thus pressure  of GD also led to glimpse of Endless Tour's rhythmic re-alignment, according to Chronicles) all have something to do with road as solution/counterworld to/for relationship and other ongoing crises/ impasses.(Not to mention Carnegie Hall, 1964: "It's Halloween, I got my Bob Dylan mask on." Now more than ever, fearlessly blasting through melting whiteface, icing on the cake.) Plus, this last part of the film  also portends certain signposts just up ahead, especially when Ginsberg recites from Gospel, re the women taking up His body and bathing it---Dyl's all ears. 

(One of the single best scenes in I'm Not There is [Don't Look Back times] R and C-inspired: David Cross Ginsberg escorts Cate Blanchett Dylan to a sculpture garden incl. towering crucifix image: "Play some of your old stuff!" she-he yells up up the tonnage.)

Great sound and pungent 70s visuals. BD had already made the Scorsese connection after all, and maybe thinkin' (studies of) Cassavetes, director of antsy Dylan docs Pennebaker natch,  and hoping for success like that of Altman's Nashville, or Led Zep's Song Remains The Same? RaC's droller moments keep its Rolling Thunder rolling between those last two. Altman and Dylan even have Ronee Blakley's good work in common, so whaddaya want? Why was it panned so deep, so decidedly, decisively (til it came ba-ack, via YouTube, at least) derisively, even young and youngish plain ol cranky about it? Maybe because you couldn't hit Pause or Stop and come back to it three hours or three days later in '78. But more to it than that, or maybe less, in another way. Your thoughts?  don allred

2015 update from something written for somewhere else:
 
I was just thinking today of how few white music stars have written songs criticizing the way police and prosecutors treat black people. "Hurricane" was one star taking up the cause of another, as was pointed out at the time of its release---but that's yet more baggage pulled along with "This is the story of the Hurricane," the continuing through-line: even if he's got the means and acquires big name support, and the case gets thrown out---so, try, try again, if you've decided that you must make an example of him. The song covers the part of the process that had already happened by 1975, and of course he ended up spending decades in prison, despite the Madison Square Garden benefit, despite much long-term grassroots support thereafter. Not to say he was an angel, not to say he was even innocent, necessarily---but when the rest of the prosecution's case(s) fell apart, they went back to the race card: if nothing else, he was *motivated* to avenge the recent death of another black man, by killing whites. This argument was thrown out of court, and---despite any headline-grabbing aspect of Dylan's motives, despite the rich male sneering at "Miss Patty Valentine," other stuff---the song's point seemed sharper than ever. "The trial was a pig circus" that kept coming back to town, and "he never had a chance"---to avoid the re-tries, not for a long, long time.
(And the section of Dylan’s ”Hurricane”-ear  travelling documentary-sketch mix Renaldo and Clara, in which black citizens of Newark comment on and argue about the Carter case on the street---I’ve never seen anything else like that in a movie*. (Dylan’s earlier “George Jackson”, with its highly- unusual-for-197i mix of black-associated gospel voices and  white-associated steel guitar (long before the Sacred Steel movement was known by most), and “Sometimes I think this whole world/Is one big prison yard/Some of us are prisoners/The rest of us are guards” seems much less problematic than some of “Hurricane”’s lyrics. But still.)

*I did see it in a movie house, where conversations went on, sometimes spreading across the aisle, during showings of some 80s Spike Lee movies. (This was basically a respectable grind house, where you could see year-old A-list films for 99 cents a show, twice a night for a week, and people got hooked---well played, former chain theater.)

2021:
I've started to wonder if the whiny-to-yowly, curiously laidback yet carefully detailed (in word and delivery), insolent-as-indolent (punk) "Joey," which eventually follows "Hurricane" on Desire, isn't a self-parody as partial disavowal of his righteous white protest bard mode---also screwing with us, daring us to decide about both songs' mixed motives, mixed messages, a la Andy Kaufman, and El Cohen, on occasion.

Getting back to movies, the gangsterous, sketchy trail of rising, falling Red Hook son "Joey" might (also?) be a take-off on the personal cinematic preoccupations of the aforementioned Scorsese, otherwise Robertson's Last Waltz bard-in-waiting---Mr. D.'s star turns did come off nicely in TLW, whatever his control issues, and he deigned to accept the full attentions of Marty much later on, of course. which worked out great. (What if Scorsese had had RaC input?!)

Albums That Never Were has added a proposed Renaldo and Clara soundtrack (single disc): http://albumsthatneverwere.blogspot.com/2020/12/bob-dylan-renaldo-clara-soundtrack.html
As always, the Wizard tells you how he chose, what he did to selections (just a little buffing, adjusting volume level for consistency etc.), and the backstory, with details about the movie and tour I didn't know (says BD tried another cut, more of a 70s concert film, but w some of the other material retained, but also got bad response---was this the version I saw? With *even more* improv etc. in first release?) also mentions the most recently released Scorsese-Dylan project, which I've yet to see: ( D's apparently now-former friend Claudia Levy, who still has some warm memories, and whose late husband Jacques wrote songs w D featured in the shows, which he ran, was distressed to find J replaced by a fictional figure in Scosese's doc/RaC homage, which may be one of the elements that "raised eyebrows," as mentioned here [great interview w her in this series, which covers every Rolling Thunder show: https://dylanlive.substack.com/p/jacques-levys-wife-explains-the-late]) : 
 
. In 2019, famed director Martin Scorsese reedited the original footage from 1975 into a completely new documentary, Rolling Thunder: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese. Finally, fans were able to see remastered and crystal-clear performances from the legendary first leg of The Rolling Thunder Revue, thanks to Scorsese’s curation. But, in true Dylan form, not all in the documentary was what it appeared to be, as several interviewees and narrative events raised numerous eyebrows.   


Now, in the wake of Dylan's (on the face of it)  hugely lucrative song catalogue deal, and re JL's co(?)-writing 7 of 9 songs on Desire----several of which figure significantly in Renaldo and Clara---Levy survivors are suing "Dylan Defendants"---more about that, and many other aspects of Desire and Rolling Thunder can be found in perceptive, informative discussions  (from various POVs) on this I Love Music thread:


 

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