Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Andy Pratt, from AllMusic
If you know Andy Pratt at all, it is likely for this blistering, gender-switch, pop orchestra number "Avenging Annie," a near hit for the songwriter and later covered by Roger Daltrey.
I didn't know about him before a chance meeting via the YouTube recommendation engine, which led me down the forest path to his 1969 album Records are Like Life.
A large number of Pratt's albums are available for streaming (and embedding) on his site http://www.itsaboutmusic.com/andypratt.html. If the embed does not work, here is the album on YouTube.
Records are Like Life is a prime example of 70s cusp sylvan wildness, where a guitar summons the spirits of mystery from the wood as on "Wet Daddy" or a piano/organ mix crafts a palace of staggering melancholy like "Oliver." Much of Pratt's first album is like this, grandeur that is tinged with a marked innocence. "Shiny Susie" is an upscale orchestrator's take on T. Rex/Donovan sexuality that would come to flower in his next album.
Pratt comes into the fullness of his powers on Andy Pratt (above or on YouTube) See particularly the hit "Avenging Annie" as well as the Zappa-influenced "It's all Behind You" with its deep-spoken soliloquies and sitar-interludes and sleaze-soul come-ons. "Summer, Summer" is like light rock Rolling Stones, if that's a possible thing. I could imagine a Parade-era Prince performing the "All the King's Weight." The schizo-twang of "Who Am I Talking To" might be the thematic track on the album - for Pratt seems to be asking that to the panoply of musicians in his head.
With Resolution's release in 1976, Steven Holden said in Rolling Stone of Pratt, "By reviving the dream of rock as an art and then reinventing it, Pratt has forever changed the face of rock." Praise no artist should have to uphold, the album is powerhouse, gelling his myriad talents into a concentrated vision. The title track finds his Jagger-esque sneer transmogrifying into a sinewey croon, surrounding his grand melody like ivy.
"Treasure that Canary" takes more than a little from the Stones' Beggars Banquet, but he does wonders with the leftovers. I particularly like the AM gold jet to the stratosphere at the end.
Somewhere after this, Pratt entered into every grand artists' search for a hit as well as an embrace of Christianity that loses much of its edge for this listener, though he finds a career in that world. Fast forward to the informally crafted albums he releases through is website to land upon 2011's Life and Death, in which a beleaguered Pratt emerges from some artistic wilderness, sounding is he is clinging to just that.
In the crudest pop critic algebra, this album is
(Chris Bell + ELO + Steve Earle) / lonely
"No yer not/gonna break me down" sounds as unconvincing as a growl from a defeated yard dog, but in that raggedness comes Pratt's glowing humanity. "I'm a long time loser. You're not gonna break me down." "Rapture" proclaims it is "a long, long way to Valhalla' over a congenial rumble rock that reminds me of Roky Erickson's post-13th Floor Elevator's glory on The Evil One. Pratt may seem to have lost it a little - trading his recording studio Boston for a storage-unit Tom Petty - but in that losing, has found something.
"My Complaint" feels more of a true resolution than Resolution - he's tired of everything - "My complaint must be a hundred miles long." He starts answering his own complaints with a cranky "What?" It feels like as true a rock song as man can sing.
Check out and buy more of his work on his website http://www.itsaboutmusic.com/andypratt.html.
Monday, November 17, 2014
- I finally watched 20,000 Days on Earth.
- I saw Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds this summer in New Orleans and it was the most transformative concert I've seen in a decade. Cathartic, climatic, catastrophic, loud as a gun, precise as a scalpel. Just as my Nick Cave infatuation was starting to fade, someone mentioned
and it pulled me right back into it. I came up with the first three verses of a blatant Nick Cave ripoff tune called "Demon! Demon! Demon!" while walking the dog this morning.
- I'm in love with his studio. A while back, New York Magazine ran a discussion between Sufjan Stevens and Stephin Merritt on the comparative values each puts on pop music, and the question of fame came up:
Do you crave massive fame and popularity?
STEVENS: No. [Laughs.] I wouldn’t mind being popular in other ways, but not with music.
MERRITT: I don’t care if I’m famous. I want to be rich. I want to be able to do what I’m doing on a bigger scale, and if I feel like having an orchestra, I’d like to be able to snap my fingers and have it happen that day. I don’t particularly like orchestral music, so it’s not much of a constraint for me. But it is a constraint not to have an enormous apartment with reverb chambers and an empty swimming pool where I can record the drums if I want to.
STEVENS: You want an empty swimming pool?
MERRITT: Yeah. I want the facilities that Abba had. I may not use them like Abba, but I want to have the creative freedom to do what only a lot of money would allow me to do. So I don’t really care about fame, but I do care about money.
- The resources of the studio are Nick Cave's amanuensis, a word-of-the-day from 2011 that has stuck with me.
noun: one employed to write from dictation or to copy manuscript
Marco worked as an amanuensis for a judge who needed to compose his opinions orally while recovering from cataract surgery.
"As early as the 1840s and 1850s, the Ohio Cultivator published women's columns that spoke vividly for women's rights and honed the talents of two important abolitionist feminists, Hanna Maria Tracy Cutler and Frances Dana Gage, who is now best remembered as the amanuensis for Sojourner Truth's 'Ain't I a Woman' speech." -- From Frances W. Kaye's 2011 book Goodlands: A Meditation and History on the Great Plains
- The recurring themes of Nick Cave's creative life is transformation and memory, which he taps into quite well. I'd like to have some financial advice - for a guy who hasn't exactly been a huge pop star he's doing quite well in houses and cars and studios. Plus, that would be a hilarious investment advice show.
But the whole thing is about transformation, his whole gig maybe. Maybe it is the human gig. Anyway, he makes it seem graceful and terrific and you should see this film even if Nick Cave is kind of a clown to you. Baton Rougeans, 20,000 Days on Earth is playing at the Manship Theatre on Nov. 29. (Facebook event)
In the world of this movie, Nick Cave has some Abba-grade digs. Pianos all over the place, fancy rugs, lots of light. he and Warren Ellis loll around intoning into microphones with engineers floating in the dust motes to catch some genius.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. I think it looks like a dog.
- The ESA is landing the Rosetta on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Live Feed (via https://new.livestream.com/ESA/cometlanding)
Also, it has been discovered that the comet is singing a 40-50 hertz song into space and because the European Space Agency is cool like that, they put it on Soundcloud
- Back on Earth, Glenn Beck has explained he is retiring because of illness. I harbor no real love for Glenn Beck, but it is impossible to ignore the effectiveness of his personal invective on the public. I was weirdly moved by his semi-cryptic announcement about his mysterious illness. Basically, he doesn't dream and it is destroying him, causing him to feel searing pains in his hands and feet. He speaks of having his wife check his feet for broken glass and doesn't mention stigmata, so I'll give him points for toning it down here.
The announcement is a powerful cocktail of vulnerability and ego.
- I lost my keys. That will remind you live in the world. If you find them (they have a white plastic bottle opener, an ironically unused green carbiner clip and Hyundai key fob on the ring), drop me a line.
- I'm becoming nostalgic, or realizing that I have always been nostalgic despite denying it. My band, the Rakers, has embarked on a monthly River City Rewind project at Chelsea's, where we cover a bunch of old, forgotten Baton Rouge songs from yesteryear. This is one of my current favorites we are doing for the 11/19 show at Chelsea's.
The Greek Fountains, "Countin' the Steps"
Come on out! We are doing a Kyper song!
- But yeah, nostalgia. My earliest "memory" is of the moon landing in 1969. The story goes that my father held me up to the TV to see it when I was but a few months old and forever I insisted I remember it. Now, I know memory is a selectively curated collage. My ability to remember people is as dodgy at Glenn Beck's but you don't see me comparing myself to Winston Churchill.
Tashi plays Messiaen Quartet at the End of Time
My nostalgia is manifesting through my daughter's record player and I just realized that I can check out albums from the campus library. As a student, I would take up residence in the library basement listening rooms and study and smoke and wallow in obtuse classical music, so now I'm checking these records out and doing the same at home, without the smoking.
I love Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, composed for an odd quartet of musicians imprisoned with him during WWII. From wiki:
Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered World War II. He was captured by the German army in June 1940 and imprisoned in Stalag VIII-A, a prisoner-of-war camp in Görlitz, Germany (now Zgorzelec, Poland). While in transit to the camp, Messiaen showed the clarinetist Henri Akoka, also a prisoner, the sketches for what would become Abîme des oiseaux. Two other professional musicians, violinist Jean le Boulaire and cellist Étienne Pasquier, were among his fellow prisoners, and after he managed to obtain some paper and a small pencil from a sympathetic guard (Carl-Albert Brüll, 1902-1989), Messiaen wrote a short trio for them; this piece developed into the Quatuor for the same trio with himself at the piano. The combination of instruments is unusual, but not without precedent: Walter Rabl had composed for it in 1896, as had Paul Hindemith in 1938.
The quartet was premiered at the camp, outdoors and in the rain, on 15 January 1941. The musicians had decrepit instruments and an audience of about 400 fellow prisoners and guards. Messiaen later recalled: "Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension."
Brüll provided paper and isolation for composing, and he also helped acquire the three other instruments. By forging papers with a stamp made from a potato, Brüll even helped the performers to be liberated shortly after the performance. After the war, Brüll made a special trip to visit Messiaen, but was sent away and told the composer would not see him.
But, I also really love Tashi, the string quartet on this recording. Check out that cape!