July 31, 2015

And that's all I have to say about that

Status Update: On Fire

Well-played, Wilmer, well-played

July 29, 2015

Eisengeiste clickbait

July 28, 2015

Trending now

July 27, 2015

A good follow

July 26, 2015


The old ways are best

Su Shi ("not to be confused with Sushi" - Wikipedia) said:

The learning of superior men and the skills of a hundred craftsmen, having originated in [antiquity] and developed during the Han and Tang periods, had reached a state of completion.  By the time poetry had produced a Du Fu [717-770], prose writing a Han Yu [768-824], calligraphy a Yan Zhenqing, and painting a Wu Daozi, all possibilities for change in the arts had been exhausted.

- Chinese Calligraphy (The Culture & Civilization of China)

From Yan Zhenqing's "Memorial Stele for Yan Qinli"

A few excerpts from 'Eastern Approaches'

I recommend this book unreservedly to all.  These passages are from his brief history of the Balkans:

July 25, 2015

Another C

I got out to the car the other day and noticed a CD I'd bought before right before I left town, the tribute album Eric Clapton put together for JJ Cale.  The Yin to Cream's Yang in Clapton's artistic life was JJ Cale.  After Cream broke up Clapton complained about their limited repertoire, that their music was "mean", and not "honest."  Cale was at the opposite pole on all three dimensions, prolific, laid-back, and authentic.  And, where Cream's ambitions were heavily commercial, Cale eschewed the limelight.

From another perspective, his bandmates in Cream were the bullying upperclassmen at his school.  Cale, he says, was simply "my hero."

As with all such efforts, the album has hits and misses (Willie Nelson?), but far more hits.  If you like this, you'll like the album.  If not, take a pass.

Here is a long interview Clapton did about the album, which gives you some flavor for how he operates in his post-rock star, post-substance abuse incarnation:

Here is an another interview from 2007, timed to the release of his autobiography, where he is very frank about his long road to recovery.

July 23, 2015

I certainly hope not, Mr. Chandler


July 22, 2015

Leaving the house is overrated

In Los Angeles, here is only part of what often happens when you leave the house, in order of when/how I learned it: 
  1. You are flattened by a car while crossing the street.
  2. You go to a stunning 1920s Spanish revival mansion on a cliff in Santa Monica for a party where you know everybody already and you know you can’t tolerate even one of them.
  3. You get hit on by an elderly fat journalist with red-wine-mouth.
  4. While hiking, your dog is kicked by one of those self-satisfied people running uncontrollably downhill, and so jumps into the moldy, muddy, algae-lined water bowl at Runyon Canyon.
  5. A woman wearing a straw hat and bikini shouts at you for letting your dog jump into the water bowl.
  6. You accidentally rear-end someone while reversing to get a parking space at Trader Joe’s.
  7. You rupture your L3-L4 spinal disc just by carrying groceries.

July 20, 2015

Now look what you started

Classic Zombies Lineup to Reunite for 'Odessey & Oracle' Tour

Surviving members of 1968 lineup behind classic LP will hit the road this autumn


Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/classic-zombies-lineup-to-reunite-for-odessey-oracle-tour-20150720#ixzz3gUG7xFwN 

July 19, 2015

Staggering into the light at the National Palace Museum, Taipei

But, you know...these guys aren't half bad

The tragedy was that throughout 1965 and 1966, the Zombies released a string of equally fine, intricately arranged singles that flopped commercially, at a time in which chart success of 45s was a lot more important to sustain a band's livelihood than it would be a few years down the road. "Remember When I Loved Her," "I Want You Back Again," "Indication," "She's Coming Home," "Whenever You're Ready," "Gotta Get a Hold of Myself," "I Must Move," "Remember You," "Just Out of Reach," "How We Were Before" -- all are lost classics, some relegated to B-sides that went virtually unheard, all showing the group eager to try new ideas and expand their approaches. What's worse, the lack of a big single denied the group opportunities to record albums -- only one LP, rushed out to capitalize on the success of "She's Not There," would appear before 1968.   - Richie Unterberger, Allmusic.com

 Also relevant: Hold Your Head Up Woman

July 18, 2015

Casualties of the British Invasion

As I sipped my latte at Peets this morning and considered next steps (pastry? shower? Luminal?), a familiar song, scientifically selected no doubt, came through the speakers.  It was the Zombies' Summertime, and it hurled me back into the maelstrom I'd just crawled out of, the extraordinary creative destruction the Summer of Love visited on the music industry.
Fun Fact:  Both the Zombies and Cream quote The Odyssey, incorrectly.  The Zombies' posthumous triumph, Odessey and Oracle, inadvertently mis-spells the title of the epic poem.  Cream, meanwhile, has Odysseus encountering Aphrodite (apparently) in "Tales of Brave Ulysses", although this never happens in The Odyssey. 

The reality is that both bands folded for primarily commercial reasons.  Cream was an artistic success by any standard, but they didn't need that - all three members were already well-regarded.  For all the talk about the band being "an experiment," the reason they came to America, and recorded Disraeli Gears in LA, and toured all over the country, was that they wanted to make it big.  And they did, but...
We went off to America to record Disraeli Gears, which I thought was an incredibly good album. And when we got back no one was interested because Are You Experienced had come out and wiped everybody else out, including us. Jimi had it sewn up. - Eric Clapton

If you were going to pick a year to try to break through as a band, 1967 might have been the worst one possible.  Here are some other albums that came out that year:
  • Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles 
  • "The Doors" - The Doors (which owes a lot to the Zombies, by the way)
  • "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You" - Aretha
  • "Are You Experienced?" - Hendrix
  • "Between the Buttons" - Rolling Stones 
  • "Surrealistic Pillow" - Jefferson Airplane
  • "The Velvet Underground and Nico" - Velvet Underground
  • "Grateful Dead" - Grateful Dead
  • and Big Brother and the Holding Company etc. etc.
Some noise was not meant to be broken through.

Come at me bro.

The Zombies had an even tougher time of it.  It must have been particularly frustating for them, because just a couple of years before they had been the new sound.  They released "She's Not There" in September 1964, and it was #2 in the U.S. by December.  Here were the top Billboard hits of that year:
  1. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" The Beatles
  2. "She Loves You" The Beatles
  3. "Hello, Dolly!" Louis Armstrong
  4. "Oh, Pretty Woman" Roy Orbison
  5. "I Get Around" The Beach Boys
  6. "Everybody Loves Somebody" Dean Martin
  7. "My Guy" Mary Wells
  8. "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" Gale Garnett
  9. "Last Kiss" J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers
  10. "Where Did Our Love Go" The Supremes 

These are fine songs, but "She's Not There" is a different animal, completely away from the pop vernacular of the time.  Imagine hearing the Beatles on the radio in 1964, then getting this, in a minor key, with its slightly histrionic vocals, rhythmic stops and starts, and trippy keyboards, not to mention the lyrics themselves - "why should I care?" indeed.

Perhaps it was their own fault for not writing three more of those right away, but by 1967 the Beatles had long since caught up and the Zombies were yesterday's news.
Fun Fact:  In the 1970s the Zombies' guitarist, the late Paul Atkinson, worked with Paul McCartney.  McCartney sang him "She's Not There" from memory, knew every word.

And listening this morning, I'm thinking this music completely holds up.  I am so fond of that cover of "Summertime" they did, because it's respectful to the original but also really puts the band's own stamp on the material.  "Summertime" fits perfectly with their intentions, right down to the  ambiguity of its origins:
Summertime is often considered an adaptation of the African American spiritual "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child", which ended the play version of Porgy.  Alternatively, the song has been proposed as an amalgamation of that spiritual and the Ukrainian Yiddish lullaby "Pipi-pipipee".  The Ukrainian-Canadian composer and singer Alexis Kochan has suggested that some part of Gershwin's inspiration may have come from having heard the Ukrainian lullaby, "Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikno" ("A Dream Passes By The Windows") at a New York City performance by Alexander Koshetz's Ukrainian National Chorus in 1929 (or 1926). - Wikipedia

Maybe there were hallucinogens in the coffee, but it occured to me that "Time of the Season" is a kind of bizarro-"Summertime".  Apart from the musical similarities, and the fact that the band knew "Summertime" inside and out, "Time of the Season" virtually quotes Gershwin:
  • Your Daddy's rich
  • Who's your Daddy?  Is he rich like me?
  • Summertime, and the living is easy
  • In this time, give it to me easy

"Time of the Season" will always be associated with the Summer of Love, and it was recorded at exactly that moment: July/August 1967.  When they were done taping, the band broke up and went their separate ways.  In April of 1968 the album was actually released, and "Time of the Season" really did break through, becoming their greatest hit.  The band eventually got to play it live...when they reunited 40 years later.

The album did ok, too:
[It] has risen from obscurity to be hailed as a pop masterpiece. It appears on numerous “Greatest Albums Of All Time” lists, including those in Rolling Stone and Mojo, and has been cited as a favorite by artists as diverse as mod rocker Paul Weller, folk hero Elliott Smith, and grunge god Dave Grohl. Unlike many rediscovered “lost albums” that owe their belated success to a movie soundtrack or television advertisement, Odessey and Oracle has endured solely thanks to its musical merits and the passion of those who’ve heard it. Based primarily on word of mouth, the record’s status increases each year.  -  Jordan Runtagh, VH-1 News

After Cream reunited at the Albert Hall in 2005, they followed up their success with an implosion full of the same toxic rage and recrimination that wrecked them the first time.  The Zombies stayed together, though:  they closed their show with "Time of the Season" at Stern Grove last year.  But, unlike the Cream reunion, which to my mind represented some of their very best work (Clapton not struggling to keep up anymore), I am not so moved by the re-vivified Zombies.  They're ok, I guess, but I think Dave Matthews, for example, does a nicer job with "Time of the Season":

Say what you want about the band, the song stands up.  Gershwin would be proud.

July 16, 2015

Sometimes I hang out in France

Photo credit:  The Other Front, various digital enhancement tools

Telling Zombies from Cream

Two British invasion bands that broke up in 1968, both musically outstanding and now regarded as icons of their era.  Both ended too soon, one in a classic drug-fuelled self-immolation, the other so the lead singer could become an insurance clerk.  In many ways they are similar, but also different.

Herewith the Eisengeiste guide to telling the difference between Cream and The Zombies:

Group founded:
  • Zombies - 1961
  • Cream - 1966

Dominant aesthetic:
  • Zombies - haunting proto-psychedelic pop
  • Cream - power psychedelic power blues

Defining album:
  • Zombies - Odessey and Oracle (listen here)
    • "[A]n achievement to rival anything the summer of love produced."  - The Guardian
    • "[A] beautifully arranged, harmony-drenched pristine pop paean to memory, the changing of seasons, the passage of time and lost love."  - The New York Times
  • Cream - Disraeli Gears (listen here)
    • "[A] quintessential heavy rock album of the '60s." - Allmusic.com
    • Surprisingly hard to find another killer quote.  So here's another thing:  when Black Sabbath's first album came out, Robert Christgau called it "Cream, but worse."

Key strengths:
  • Zombies - hauntingly beautiful melodies and outstanding vocal performances
  • Cream - power, skillful musicianship, power, power, power, and then also power
    • Baker:  “The last year with Cream was just agony. It’s damaged my hearing permanently.”

Biggest hit:
  • Zombies - She's Not There (#2 in U.S., 12/12/64)
  • Cream - Sunshine of Your Love (#5 in U.S., 8/31/68)

Other great songs:
  • Zombies - Time of the Season, Tell Her No
  • Cream - Strange Brew, Tales of Brave Ulysses

But I suggest you also listen to:

The band owed a lot to:
  • Zombies - The Beatles (and vice-versa).
    • John Lennon offered to manage them after they split with their agent.
  • Cream - Buddy Guy, Hendrix
    • [Hendrix] got up and played Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor”. Even today I don’t know many people who can play that. It’s a very, very tough piece of music. But Jimi did it and then he put the guitar behind his back and I thought, “My god, this is like Buddy Guy on acid.” - Clapton

Group broke up (for the 1st time):
  • Zombies - 1968
  • Cream - 1968

Group broke up because:
  • Zombies - Couldn't sell records, lead singer apparently interested in insurance.
  • Cream - "I was calling home...and saying, 'Get me out of here – these guys are crazy. I don’t know what’s going on and I’ve had enough.'"  - Clapton

Heartwarming reunion:

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
  • Zombies - no, a travesty of justice
  • Cream - yes, inducted in 1993, with an inspiring speech by Clapton and a too-brief, tantalizing, reunion performance

Epic talent that would help define his instrument for a generation to come:
  • Zombies - none
  • Cream - Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker
    • "If you listen to 'I'm So Glad' on Goodbye, you really hear the three guys go – and Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were a couple of jazz guys, pushing Clapton forward. I once read that Clapton said, 'I didn't know what the hell I was doing.' He was just trying to keep up with the other two guys!"  -Eddie Van Halen

People in the band prone to sudden violent outbursts
  • Zombies - none known
  • Cream - Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker

Members of band likely to murder one another if left alone:
  • Zombies - none we are aware of
  • Cream - Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker

Refer all further questions to this man:
Ginger Baker attacks documentary filmmaker Jay Bulger, breaking his nose.

I heard that was a big war

July 15, 2015

Jet lag therapy: this, and a lot of espresso


Fine documentary on the making of Disraeli Gears is here.

Alaska is similar, but slightly colder in places

July 14, 2015



Spaghetti: for all your Ramadan fasting needs

Nobel Prize nominee:  food advertising 


Emirates is the best airline


President Barack Obama shaking hands with an Islamic person.