January 28, 2010
Today J.D. Salinger passed away. The author of the Catcher in the Rye was 91. The Associated Press released the obituary for the author just two minutes after 1 p.m. today. They said his son broke the news in a press release.
Just as much as most people knew him for his 1951 book, they also knew him as a recluse who hated the spotlight. All kinds of craziness was published about the mysterious writer in the wake of his self-imposed exile from the public. That never concerned me much. I’ve only read that one book by Salinger, but it had a profound influence on me since I read it in high school. At the same time, the book was well known to have been banned in many schools since is publication. I remember my 11th grade teacher warning us that it was for the use of the word “fuck” toward the end of the novel, but I later learned it was deeper than that. The many bans on Catcher was more about the deeper social fear of the possible romanticism of a rebellious and, in my opinion, an independent thinking teen in the protagonist of Holden Caulfield.
Sure, the book was blamed for the notable evil it supposedly inspired in Mark David Chapman who called John Lennon a “phony” before shooting him dead in 1980. But, God, do we live in an era surrounded by so many phonies who brainwash or have had their brains washed. Today’s society celebrates as many phonies as it produces: those who strive so badly to assimilate into whatever the popular culture is dictating, a news media more interested in bandwagon jumping than giving people the information they need, etc. I could go on, but I shan’t rant. This is not to say anyone should be shot dead, but they should be called out (my list is too long and dull, but I welcome you to post any thoughts on who I might be thinking about).
My celebration of independent thinking artists in this blog, would not be possible, if it were not for the effect the Catcher in the Rye had on my persona. It is not solely responsible, but it without a doubt a part of it.
So in that spirit, let us hope that Salinger enjoyed his last days knowing he held super creative control over the use of his iconic book, clinging too the movie rights to the bitter end (Salinger never allowed for any movie producer to take his book and adapt into a film, and he never even liked the idea of cover art on a novel, saying the words should speak for themselves, so to speak). But now, with his passing, the possibility remains that his kids may inherit the movie rights (dear reader, correct me if I am wrong in this assumption). Because they are less precious about Salinger’s work, it might just be possible to see a movie adaptation?
Before you call me a sell out, let me say that I would never consider a film adaptation in any way a substitute for the experience of literature or vice versa. They are completely different mediums that one experiences in utterly different ways. I would never say “the book was better” about any movie that was adapted from a literary source, and I have no patience for those who do. I do think the proper question to consider in film adaptations is whether or not they do justice to the spirit of the source material or even raise that material to another level.
That said, I doubt anyone could raise the Catcher in the Rye to a higher level than the literary masterpiece that it already is, but I think there are directors that can capture the spirit of the book and should be allowed to try. One director who immediately pops into my head is Gus Van Sant, whose recent works on youths and melancholy rebels (see Elephant and Last Days respectively) have been unparalleled in the manner they capture the spirit of young people in the throes of cynicism. Do you have any other ideas on which directors should take such a job and to what effect it might have, interpretation-wise? Do share…
January 23, 2010
My representative at EMI has informed me that for the second time, the David Bowie LP reissues of Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, and Young Americans for its “From the Capitol Vaults” series, have had their release dates pushed back once again to an as yet unknown date.
The 180-gram vinyl reissues, which were supposed to replicate the original packaging of the early to mid-70s releases, were first announced to come out as part of the Nov. 3 series of Vinyl Vaults reissues. Then I was told they would be out on Jan. 26. The reason for this first postponement was never made officially clear, except for the explanation that logistics had delayed their release.
Now, as Jan. 26 approaches, this second delay is even more vague, as I was told I will be informed of any new information when it is available. So, for now, the reissues have been postponed to an unknown date. Let me note: I was not told they were cancelled, just postponed once again.
So, we are left to hope that maybe, just possibly, the label will go out of its way to find something other than the digital sources that were first supposed to provide the music on the wax. This series is not known for going back to the master tapes for its reissues, but we can hope. You can read about the planned original sources for these Bowie reissues here.
I leave you with the stark image of the Aladdin Sane album cover: Bowie looking spent and sad, with the iconic “Ziggy bolt” splitting his face in half and a single tear laying in the nook of his clavicle, a metaphor for the difficulties he suffered while maintaining his alter ego of Ziggy Stardust to wide acclaim during the early 70s. Don’t be misled by the likes of Lady Gaga and Ke$ha, glam rock is never all glitter and good times, kiddies, especially when you are as sincere an artist as David Bowie putting on an act.
January 20, 2010
Peter Gabriel’s website has always offered great peeks behind the scenes and previews into whatever he’s up to for many years now. Right now, his website is gradually releasing a series of podcasts where Gabriel talks about the tracks he chose for new project called Scratch My Back, a covers album due out Feb. 15 (so far, only on UK import).
First off, here are the tracks with links to the relevant artists’ pages, from his website:
1. “Heroes” (David Bowie)
2. The Boy in the Bubble (Paul Simon)
3. Mirrorball (Elbow)
4. Flume (Bon Iver)
5. Listening Wind (Talking Heads)
6. The Power of the Heart (Lou Reed)
7. My Body is a Cage (Arcade Fire)
8. The Book of Love (The Magnetic Fields)
9. I Think it’s Going to Rain Today (Randy Newman)
10. Après Moi (Regina Spektor)
11. Philadelphia (Neil Young)
12. Street Spirit (Fade Out) (Radiohead)
I was delighted by the choices, as I’m quite a die-hard fan of lots of these bands and musicians.
Somewhere on that site I also found Episode 2 of the podcast. I can’t remember where, somewhere in the forums, but here it is for download.
Finally, here is Episode 3.
I have yet to hear the album in its entirety, though I plan to review it for “Goldmine” near its time of release. The podcasts are lengthy and offer decent insight into the song choice (the first episode is just under 14 minutes long, while the second is nearly 20 minutes). All feature snippets of the songs (four tracks per podcast).
A close collaborator on the project is John Metcalfe, who composed the string arrangements with Gabriel. Metcalfe, a former member of Durutti Column, an experimental group of musicians to come out of Manchester during the heyday of the post punk movement, deserves much credit for his work, and Gabriel does not forget that in these podcasts where Gabriel also shares his personal relationship with these songs.
The concept for this album is that all the artists he covers will record one of his songs for a proposed I’ll Scratch Yours album, and news on his website suggests that work on this album has supposedly already begun, with the mixes of some of the Gabriel covers already arriving in the man’s hands.
The idea is that the other artists’ covers will be offered as “double A-sides” on iTunes, for now. It remains unclear whether they will be collected and released as an official tribute album of sorts. But you know what would be really cool? A box set of the album in 7-inch format with each track from the album backed by the PG cover by the band he has covered. Speaking of vinyl, the news piece on petergabriel.com also hints that a vinyl release of the album is in the works, though it has yet to be officially announced.
January 18, 2010
So it’s been like five years, but I’m back into getting published in music magazines, beginning with my review for the Capitol Vinyl Vaults reissue of Faust IV. “Goldmine” has reintroduced me to the world of writing for music magazines, and– dare I say– I enjoy the challenge of having to write these shorter reviews due to the precious space provided by printed paper. Read the final product here.
You can also purchase the latest issue of the bi-monthly record collector’s magazine at newsstands, record shops and larger bookstores, and now you can order subscriptions through Amazon.
The final product came out pretty good, I think. The editor barely touched it, and maybe I come across too harsh on CDs, but I still stand by the sound of the vinyl over the CD reissue of the album from a few years earlier. The separation of the instruments is much more pronounced on the vinyl to the tremendous benefit of the complex sound. It’s quite an amazing job.
If I can find time, I might expand my writing beyond “Goldmine.” But for now future assigned jobs for “Goldmine” include:
More Capitol Vinyl Vaults reissues (last I heard these were due out some time this month):
David Bowie – Aladdin Sane
David Bowie – Diamond Dogs (it will be interesting to see if the album has the Bowie/dog penis airbrushed away or not).
David Bowie – Young Americans
Of course, watch this blog for expanded reviews of these releases.
(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
January 11, 2010
The Associated Press announced his passing just after 1 p.m. today. Here’s what they wrote:
French filmmaker Eric Rohmer dies
PARIS (AP) — A production company says French filmmaker Eric Rohmer — internationally known for movies tracing the intricacies of romantic relationships — has died. He was 89 years old.
Les Films du Losange, a company that produced his movies, says Rohmer died in Paris on Monday. The cause of death was not immediately known.
He had worked until recently, with his latest film, “Les amours d’Astree et de Celadon,” (“Romance of Astree and Celadon”), appearing in 2007.
Rohmer debuted in cinema in the early 1950s, making dozens of films.
In 2001, he was awarded a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for his body of work.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
He did some great work up until the end. I especially remember having the privilege to see The Lady and the Duke in the theater. I true masterpiece done with digital video. His Moral Tales are an amazing series of movies, and I would highly recommend them. One later-period, obscure one I personally love from is Le rayon vert, whose title was poorly translated to Summer in English.
January 10, 2010
The Flaming Lips’ collaboration with Stardeath and the White Dwarves, Henry Rollins and Peaches is a track-for-track remake of arguably one of the most notable rock albums in popular music’s history. Their remake, a digital only release, proves stunning in its originality while maintaining a dedication to the original work.
It should go without saying that these alternative rock artists are too progressive to produce a note-for-note retread of the album. That said, I had high expectations for the collaboration.
Before I go on, allow me to note one human inconsistency in my appreciation of remakes of the Dark Side of the Moon. I can also wholeheartedly say that I appreciate a faithful reinterpretation of this classic album.
Last year, I had the pleasure to see Classic Albums Live, a troupe from Toronto who performed an amazingly disciplined interpretation of Dark Side. They captured every detail, except they did it all live, including the distinctive samples. For example, an array of non-traditional percussion instruments captured the opening sounds of “Money” with surprising precision. They also had an amazing young woman who sang the soaring improved solo in “Great Gig in the Sky” with mind-blowing precision and soul. If you know the record inside out, it was a delight to see and hear live.
But would it have made a good recording? Why, when you have the original? It was about seeing and hearing the album live, and that is where Classic Albums Live derive their much deserved notoriety. One of the best concerts I ever paid for.
Now, on the other side of things, if you want to hear real musical pros re-record Dark Side of the Moon, invest in the Flaming Lips’ collaboration with Stardeath and the White Dwarves, with supporting performances by Henry Rollins and Peaches. It’s mp3-only and available from iTunes and most mP3 sites like Napster (I personally would love to see a vinyl version pressed from the master, though).
The album opens with the familiar heartbeat and whir that kicks off the original, but instead of the sampled voice being buried below the mix, Rollins’ vocals are loud and up front: “I’ve been mad for fuckin’ years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yons…” continuing in the spirit and pace of the original, but adding his own distinct spin on it.
You know this will be a different work by those opening seconds. Then, instead of the smooth, clean guitars of the original “Speak to Me/Breath” that offers a relieving juxtaposition to the screams that precede it, these guys offer the same kind of scream in a distorted, quavering howl and decide to go with a loud, noisy fuzzy, driving baseline with swelling but gentle guitar feedback weaving through it. It’s brilliant, catchy and groovy and a stark difference to the original.
The album is full of such surprises, and there is no sense in spoiling the rest of it with words. It’s worth buying in its entirety from Napster or iTunes, so go to those sites and download it now.
The inherit quality of the original album makes for an amazing springboard for these contemporary and always creative musicians. You can tell they are having a ball throughout and love the source material with verve. This is not a parody at all but a totally respectful reinterpretation. Some purists might call it blasphemy, but I would beg to differ. If you have heard it for yourself, do share your own thoughts in the comment box below.
*You should really get it on the highly rated vinyl reissue.