First of all, delete or forget what I wrote in my last blog (!)… that was sentimental tripe regarding my affection for a ton and a half of loyal black metal…my old HHR. Now I have a newer EQUINOX, and as soon as I drove out of that car lot, my funereal mood regarding the prior vehicular relationship faded quickly, in awe of the new.
while down below, in the low flat zone between the Pavilions housing the springs, there is the excellent Twisted Metal Sculpture by Noah Savett and a partner of his that forms a tribute to 9/11…
Heavy-at-first, the snow began abruptly in slanting, driven fashion, just after 11 a.m., as my phone had predicted. Amazing how closely they can predict these things now. At that point, I spoke to my buddy Al to wish him and his wife a Happy Thanksgiving and catch up on a few things. Asked him if his plow was ready on this truck.. He said, Nah I’ll do it after lunch, I’m not so sure it‘s really gonna snow….
Since I was about 5 miles west of where he was, and a couple of hundred feet higher, my weather vantage was a bit more accurate…I told him, Dude, it is already comin’ down up here, and headed your way… so he took my advice and put the plow on before lunch.
As kids, we were always the family that drove to visit relatives back in Connecticut, a two and a half hour drive with six of us crammed in the car. The comaraderie and love of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins was worth the trip, and Nana’s cooking of the turkey and stuffing, plus her use of the formal dining room China made it an annual epic event, and much more ceremonial than anything we could pull off in Ravena, on our own. It was never the same after my grandfather died, however, though we still made the voyage.
Now my wife has taken on the role of masterminding this sacramental holiday in November, and we have had anywhere from 15 to 26 people at our home for the occasion, over the past decade that we’ve been in our home. Her mom and two sisters and brother contribute dishes and pies and there always seem to be enough younger members of the family to enliven things– a 1.3 year old nephew named Hunter, and his 2.4 year old cousin named Mallory are the newest and most animated members of the family at this point. TV shows and music are on in the background but the kids provide most of the entertainment, aside from the feast itself.
More snow fell that afternoon while everyone was here, and like overweening school marms we had to caution all relatives to drive home prudently. But between the stewardship of the youngsters and the weather conditions, beer & wine consumption was kept to a minimum and I was happy to see that none of the adults got even close to tipsy much less drunk, this time around. This was a welcome change from some of the holidays of my youth, let’s leave it at that. For me the best part of the holiday was NOT having to drive anywhere, whether drinking or not, as I said. As a Taurus I’ve grown to love home and hearth, essentially a commercial cliche for the real estate profession, yup.
Random Jots…About Our Cars
I’m gonna fast forward a few topics now– random jots from my notebooks of late.
All-Wheel Drive is a great invention, what took me so long to discover it?
A Pioneer Sound System is apparently still cool, at least in a car, 40+ years after I first heard of speakers by that name. Especially impressive after having to listen to blown speakers in my HHR since roughly last spring. The sound was so bad for a while there that I’d have gotten kicked out of a trailer park if my windows were rolled down.
Why was I so sentimental about that my old HHR, I forget. So last decade.
The Equinox sits up higher, a more commanding seat, better vision. It’s not as big as the Suburban I wheeled around for a while, but a nice halfway point. Three Chevies in a row now, a pattern. Miles wants a Buick if he can’t yet get a Mercedes– more material aspirations between he and his sister than I ever had. Meanwhile he’s driving my Unkle’s old 1996 Quest, a van dubbed TINDOG, as the late Paul Perras never did anything in ordinary fashion. Miles will graduate from the artist’s tradmark vehicle at some point when his cash flow allows, and perhaps we’ll retain Unk’s Nissan for Daryn, the next generation of artist in the family.
Random Jots on Music…
I am listening to BECK’s 2014 release on CD for the umpteenth time, umpteenth meaning you stopped counting.
“MORNING PHASE” is the most atypical album I’ve been addicted to since maybe “In A Silent Way,” or the first Weather Report album, though both of those were instrumentals. There is nothing remotely uptempo about it, nothing with a big beat, nothing danceable, nothing adrenaline inducing. It’s a largely acoustic sound, with synth-like cellos and harps and dulcimers almost indistinguishably mixed in. It casts a spell when heard as a whole.
For awhile I was starting my early pre-dawns by listening to it as the coffee water
boiled and the brew was percolated…
“When the morning comes to meet you,
Lay me down in waking light…”
The radio friendly cuts were most familiar at first– “Heart is A Drum” and “Blue Moon” — both tremendous songs. But the rest of it washes over you with a sound palette both unique and soothing. Until I started writing this appreciation, I hadn’t even looked at the lyric sheets. The words almost didn’t matter, like foreign chanting or harmonic sounds that were pleasant and meaningful without being understood.
Beck Hansen is a transformative genius; his live concert back in June at MassMoCa was much the opposite of this most recent CD, and yet both were phenomenal. There, in an open-air factory parking lot/grassy knoll– his full band was 100+ decibels of dynamic and manic sound– from “Devil’s Haircut” to begin with, and “Where It’s At” at the end, avec Beck’s harmonica histrionics of “One Foot In The Grave” mixed in with a pounding version of “Think I’m In Love” and “LOSER” in between. The gems I didn’t know about in advance were songs like “Soldier Jane” and “Que Onda Guero”, My wife and I had the good fortune to be seated on the lawn behind a married couple who were Beck fanatics– Hilary and Ren of Norfolk, CT. They were enraptured by the entire performance, despite the scratchiness of the sound system and occasional blasts of feedback. As a relative neophyte to Beck’s deeper cuts I had to keep asking, “What was the name of that one?” and Hilary indulged me every time, and then in between tunes waxed rhapsodic about the new album, which she rightfully urged me to acquire.
I am only now giving thanks to Hilary and Ren, and Beck himself!– in looking back five months at that concert, which was indeed the highlight of any shows I saw in 2014– though the list of those I missed is epic and lengthy.
For example– back in early September, when we were away for a few days, I regret missing fusion drummer Billy Cobham’s revival of his Spectrum album of 40 years ago, a great concert at The Egg in Albany, which received a rave review from Greg Haynes of the Times Union. Since Cobham, whom I saw in his heyday with The Mahavishnu Orchestra featuring Jan Hammer and John McGlaughlin, is now 70 years old, that is not a show likely to be repeated. Similarly, I missed Jack deJohnette’s new band when they played Albany’s Riverfront Park outdoors this summer– as a young buck he’d been part of Miles Davis’s iconic Bitches Brew sessions, and also played on the meditative In A Silent Way, which I mentioned earlier. I had seen him play at the legendary J.B. Scott’s on Central Avenue in Albany at some point in the mid-80’s, with his Special Edition band (Eddie Gomez, Arthur Blythe on alto, David Murray on tenor, omg…), one of the best live jazz shows I’ve ever seen.
I also missed the Empire State Plaza performance of Bootsy Collins with members of Parliament– the guitarist with George Clinton’s monster space-funk bands of the 70’s and 80’s, who still get sampled today… also got a great review from Mr. Haynes, whose job I envy.
Closer to home, in Clifton Park at Upstate Concert Hall, I missed two more current acts in October I fully intended to see: OK Go, and Courtney Barnette, just because they happened to be on weeknights during a hectic stretch of work. I can’t always be as bohemian and au courant as I would like.
I failed to see the rarely touring Steely Dan at SPAC, the same Labor Day weekend we visited the Cape Cod coast. Missed the last go-around of The Allman Brothers and also guitarist Warren Haynes’ own band Government Mule, which were at The Palace in Albany or Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady, both great places to see a concert. Planned to see a Pink Floyd tribute band at the Proctors last month as well- but found it hard to justify paying $55. for a band that had no original members of Floyd itself. I heard that Ray LaMontaigne’s show at Proctor’s was amazing, according to Katie G. at Exit 97.7 FM, and wish I’d given him a second chance, with his new upbeat sound, having been produced by Dan Auerback of The Black Keys.
One of my favorites-I’ve-never-seen is Mike Doughty, of Soul Coughing fame– he has appeared locally several times, including at The Linda in Albany, which I woulda loved. Also sorry to have missed the throwback show at The Egg this year by Dave Mason, former member of the superb 70’s group Traffic.
In the Local 5-1-8, as they say around here, I also missed CD release parties for Troy’s now-favorite-son Sean Rowe, who is getting national attention now, and yet still due to appear locally at Cafe Lena in a solo show in February. Stellar Young, a cool young rock aggregation from Albany (formerly called The City Never Sleeps), also appeared a couple of times locally without me being there. I could probably name another Top 10 “Acts I’ve Missed Lately” but the point I am making here to those outside our immediate area is that we get a ton of good music coming through the Capital Region/Saratoga zone, and it’s there for the taking. In reading METROLAND, the exceptional local arts mag out of Albany, one realizes on a weekly basis how much talent appears hereabouts, if one only had time and leisure and money to totally indulge in it all. (This past week, for instance, I realized I missed Slick Rick at The Putnam Den, and hadn’t even known about it till it was past…)
But seeing BECK’s show at MassMoCa was one revelation I will remember, and don’t have to regret missing that one. The diversity of styles and sounds he has produced over 20+ years was showcased as a huge kaleidoscope that night in North Adams, Mass. Even though the sound systems there were at times distorted and the crowd a bit unruly and constantly moving around, the overall impression was mesmerizing.
So, as the end-of-the-year lists are being compiled, I am simply voting for Beck’s “Morning Phase” as hands-down Record of the Year for me. I know the cool DJs at WEXT are pushing for Sean Rowe’s recent release “Madman” as the best this year, and their counterparts at WEQX of Manchester, Vermont are touting the beguiling singer/songwriter Josier (“Take Me To Church”) as hands-down winner in that category. I also liked the recent Robert Plant CD (“Lullaby and The Ceaseless Roar”) as the work of a still-vibrant master. “The New Basement Tapes” (with Jim James, Marcus Mumford, Elvis Costello, et al.) as a tribute to Dylan and The Band’s much-hyped original, is worthy of consideration. And the now-fully-released “Basement Tapes” from The Pink House circa 1967 in Saugerties, NY would also be a viable candidate, though it wouldn’t be my favorite. The sophomore release from British group ALT-J would be more to my liking, in fact. In my 59th year, I am still more prone to wanting fresh input than simply indulging in nostalgia for the greatness of the past.
I will mull more on the subject of the year’s music, next time.
It’s time to wrap up this rambling blog, which has now spilled from late-November into early December, for which I apologize. These things are supposedly to br brief and punchy, but brief is not my forte…
Back at you soon, stay tuned…
Thanks for reading,