July 17, 2014

Elaine Stritch, “Ladies Who Lunch”

Elaine Stritch, best known for her rendition of this song in the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company and most recently known for her role as Jack Donaghy’s mother in 30 Rock, has died, age 89.

A raconteur, a singer with a voice more distinctive than “pretty,” one that occasionally nudged into the microtonal once the volume and bile rose, a fan of the man’s shirt, stockings and heels as her stage costume.  They don’t build them like her any more.  She became known for her showstopping “Ladies Who Lunch,” but she lived another Sondheim show’s—Follies—epic “I’m Still Here.”

This tune, sung by Stritch’s Joanne, a character Sondheim wrote specifically for her, has one of Sondheim’s most telling lines:

"So here’s to the girls on the go—Everybody tries.
Look into their eyes
And you’ll see what they know:
Everybody dies.”

And that, for me, captures about 90 percent of human behavior.


July 17, 2014

Johnny Winter, “Highway 61 Revisited”

The best albino blues guitarist ever to come out of Beaumont, Texas, and one of the great American guitarists on acoustic and electric, Johnny Winter died yesterday, age 70.

I could’ve picked one of his live cuts or his studio work with Muddy Waters, but I decided on this, the second-best Dylan cover ever and a terrific showcase for his slashing slide guitar. This version screams for some open road and a full tank.

The tune itself has one of the great opening couplets in rock:

Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61”

Here’s the Septuagint version of this tale, also recounted at one point by Leonard Cohen:

καὶ εἶπεν Λαβὲ τὸν υἱόν σου τὸν ἀγαπητόν, ὃν ἠγάπησας, τὸν Ισαακ, καὶ πορεύθητι εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ὑψηλὴν καὶ ἀνένεγκον αὐτὸν ἐκεῖ εἰς ὁλοκάρπωσιν ἐφ᾽ ἓν τῶν ὀρέων, ὧν ἄν σοι εἴπω.

Or as rendered in the good ol’ Vulgate:

ait ei tolle filium tuum unigenitum quem diligis Isaac et vade in terram Visionis atque offer eum ibi holocaustum super unum montium quem monstravero tibi

And as translated in the KJV:

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

I leave it to those better schooled than I to tease out the distinctions between the Greek and Latin versions. One interesting bit your sobsister noticed is the difference between the Greek and Latin words used to convey “only” as in “only son.” Latin uses “unigenitum,” which breaks down to “only born.” Greek, however, uses “ἀγαπητόν,” or “beloved,” (from “ἀγαπάω,” I love, thence the Xtian concept of “agape”), but in the specific sense of “beloved because the only son.” Which is then reinforced by “ὃν ἠγάπησας” or “whom [Abraham] loved.” Which bring home the notion of Isaac’s preciousness to his father and the extent and nature of the sacrifice that Abraham was being asked to make. In light of which, Dylan’s Abe sounds to have the right attitude.

And back to Johnny Winter, whose bottleneck licks spit and swerve like a viper on an oil slick.


July 16, 2014

Curtis Mayfield, “So In Love”

July 16, 2014

Teddy Pendergrass, “Love TKO”

"Tried to take control of love
Love took control of me.”

July 16, 2014

Al Green, “Tired of Being Alone”

Soul man par excellence bringing it on a TV show back in the day.

July 13, 2014

Alan Cumming and recording, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” from Cabaret

July 13, 2014

Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, ”It Might As Well Be Spring,” from Last Dance

In honor of Haden, one of the great post-war bassists, who died Friday at 76 (here’s The Grey Lady’s obit.).  He worked with some of the greatest figures in jazz at some of the art form’s pivotal moments, from Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking quartet through a long stint with Jarrett through the late ’60s and mid ’70s.

He also led the Revolutionary Music Orchestra and Quartet West and worked through a wide variety of genres both in jazz and outside it, including his own beginnings as bassist for Ozark Jubilee, a TV show broadcast from his hometown of Springfield, Missouri.  

This song is from his last release, a collection of standards drawn from sessions recorded with Jarrett in 2007.  A gorgeous tune closely associated with Bill Evans, first committed to vinyl in his first recording after the death of star bassist Scott LaFaro.

Ave atque vale.

July 13, 2014

The Ramones, The Ramones

The last surviving Ramone, Tommy, has died.  My first girlfriend introduced me to sex, drugs and rock & roll—well, the Ramones, at any rate, who were the touchpaper for punk—and opened this sobsister’s ears.

So, ave atque vale to the boys, now in ’70s NYC heaven.

July 10, 2014

Company and George Hearn, “We Are What We Are”/”I Am What I Am”

Because your sobsister is just in that kind of a frickin’ mood tonight.

July 9, 2014

Underworld, “Born Slippy .NUXX”

Live in Tokyo 2010.  Next best thing to being there.

July 8, 2014

Susheela Raman, “Raise Up”

July 7, 2014

Massive Attack, “Same from Harm”

Which, I learned this evening, borrowed the bassline from Billy Cobham’s “Stratus" (off his classic Spectrum album).

July 6, 2014

Underworld, “Dark and Long (Dark Train)”

A little motorik action via ’90s England.  And Scotland, if you count its Trainspotting exposure.

July 6, 2014

Goldie, “Inner City Life”

A little d’n’b to roll through your Sunday night.

July 5, 2014

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, “The Yam,” from Carefree.

Not sure about the sepia tint applied here, though Ginger lives up to her name.  A great number from the latter part of their partnership.  The dancing is so effortless, and Astaire such a perfectionist, that I wonder how much work went into every smiling turn and step.