Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ruth tells it like it is and what's on Laura Flanders tonight

You know some of us are feeling bad about not being able to blog every day. And C.I. takes "off" Friday which means only three posts and Saturday rolls around and you've got what, sixty posts up there!

Seriously, I think there are seven. All worth reading. C.I., like Cher, just keeps rolling on. Or maybe Ruth's the Cher because she let's it all hang loose this morning in her Ruth's Morning Edition Report. Ruth, I hear you!!! I'm tired of people spitting on the peace movement too. Especially when they've done little to help it while they've benefitted from anti-war people supporting them. I saw Democracy Now! and was glad Amy Goodman asked him about the Mossad but I really don't think he fully answered the question.

I'm tired of the boys trying to prove their manhood by spitting on the peace movement. Glad Ruth called out Papantino too. It gets old. And they end up alienating the people who would normally listen to them while attempting to score with people that want to laugh at the anti-war movement.

It gets real old.

One thing that doesn't get old is the one and only Laura Flanders. I'm swiping this from C.I. because I got a few e-mails on the thing I did about Flanders' show last week.

"The Laura Flanders Show: Kate Clinton, Joan Wile of Grandmothers Against the War, James Ridgeway, Joe Strupp Rocky Anderson, Dave Cieslewicz"
We always note
The Laura Flanders Show in its own entry because it is a community favorite.(And thanks to Kat for doing last week's entry on it. Not only did Kat do a great job, she did it at the last minute when I realized there was no way I would be done volunteering in time. So thank you, Kat.) Rocky Anderson is the mayor of Salt Lake City, flashback, which had the big protest when Bully Boy visited at a time when he couldn't walk across his ranchetta to meet Cindy Sheehan who was camped out in Camp Casey at the time.

This Week on The Laura Flanders Show
On Air America Radio, 7-10 PM EST
As hurricanes Harriet, Fitzpatrick, and Wilma hit, we look at Mayors who are making change in challenging times, with Salt Lake City's ROCKY ANDERSON and Madison, Wisconsin's DAVE CIESLEWICZ.
We'll visit with a grandmother who got arrested trying to sign up for service in Iraq.
The Village Voices' JAMES RIDGEWAY and Editor and Publisher's JOE STRUPP consider what journalists did right and wrong this past week.
And we’ll have KATE CLINTON in studio to talk about her latest book, What the L?, and her USO tour... that's "Utah Seems Odd."
Don't Forget - You can listen to past broadcasts of the Laura Flanders Show: Download archived shows HERE or Subscribe to the Free PODCAST through the iTunes Music Store
Go to the Laura Flanders Blog

In addition to listening to The Laura Flanders Show via iPod, you can also listen to it over broadcast radio (if there's an AAR in your area), via XM Satellite Radio (channel 167) or listen online. It's a program that airs Saturdays and Sundays. (Sundays is not a rebroadcast unless the show is on vacation.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Dolly Parton and the Cowboy Junkies

Where are you Kat?

That's the cry coming from the e-mails. I'm trying to get into Stevie Wonder's A Time To Love but I've been pretty busy. I love India.Arie so I love the title track. Hopefully, I'll be able to get into the album more as I have more time. "Passionate Raindrops" is probably my favorite song right now. I love Stevie Wonder's soft vocals on this one. The song I'm having the most trouble with is beautiful musically but it's a duet, a love duet, entitled "How Will I Know" and it creeps me out the way Nancy Sinatra and Frank Sinatra's "Something Stupid" always did. I don't think two people have to be lovers to sing a duet but I do think it's a good idea not to pair up a parent with a child. I think "Passionate Raindrops" should have been the lead single. It's new enough to sound different but has enough of the hallmarks you expect from Stevie Wonder for it to sound fresh.

But I'll post the review we all did at The Third Estate Sunday Review:

We'd already intended to note Dolly Parton's Those Were The Days after noting last week that the promotional single for it qualified as the worst single of the year. Then Kat filled in for C.I. at The Common Ills and noted that The Laura Flanders Show would have the Cowboy Junkies on Saturday night to discuss their new anti-war CD Early 21st Century Blues. So we figured we'd take a crack at both of them. We includes Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava of The Third Estate Sunday Review, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Mike of Mikey Likes It!, and C.I. of both The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review as well as, for the first time helping us out, Wally of the brand new The Daily Jot. We're not doing this in transcript form. The reason being that this took place in two discussions. Cedric and Betty participated in the first but had to bail to get sleep before heading to church and Wally joined for the second.

We'll start off with Parton. We said last week that we expected to enjoy the album (despite dubbing the CD single the worst of the year) and our hunch was right. Kat noted that Parton appeared to be framing the album as a flashback by opening with "Those Were The Days." The standout tracks for us were many. "Both Sides Now" is done much faster than most are prepared for but C.I. noted that on the first "that I recall" Parton's one of the few performers who's done the song since Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell (Mitchell wrote it, Collins had the hit with it) that gets the notes right on that phrase. Joining Parton on this song is, in fact, Judy Collins. (Along with Rhonda Vincent.) Betty noted "Imagine" and how much she enjoyed the call and response in the last third of the song. With that song, along with the rest, Parton puts her own individual stamp on the recordings. This isn't a carbon copy, watered down imitation.
This is Parton taking songs that are famous (many that are in the popular music canon) and making them her own. "Me and Bobby McGee" (sung with writer Kris Kristofferson) is a perfect example. Parton's not trying to be Janis Joplin, she's trying to find her own way into the song and succeeds wonderfully. This may be one of the standout tracks for Parton fans because she (and the muscians) get to cut loose on this song. "Crimson & Clover" is another song that will please due to the high energy.

Part of the reason she succeeds in these cover versions is because she's not trying to imitate the original recordings. Instead, she's giving them the blue grass treatment. Others may be familiar with that sort of treatment of the twelve songs on this album. We weren't and we found it revolutionary. Another reason she succeeds is because Parton knows how to sing. She knows when to get soft, she knows when to get loud, she knows when to tweak a line with good humor and when to shade it. She's one of the best singers because she serves the song.

As a much covered songwriter herself, she's no doubt heard her own songs damaged by others. That may account for why she's always working to find what the song is saying and what makes it special as opposed to bowling you over with her high notes or how long she can hold a note. Or maybe it's because, as she notes in linear notes, it's because these songs are songs she's enjoyed for a long time and ones that have touched her.

Regardless of why, she does a beautiful job of recasting the songs and bringing to them new insight. Last Sunday, Kat told us that she bet Dolly would sing "harmonica" and not "harp" in her cover of "Me and Bobby McGee" and Dolly does use "harmonica." Kat's reason for guessing that was that Dolly Parton wants to communicate and move people. Kat was right about harmonica and listening to the CD we'd say she was right about Parton wanting to communicate and move. There are no bad cuts here. There's no reason to grab the remote and skip a track or to program the player to avoid one. This is an artist at work, moving you with her gift and commenting not just on songs that moved her but on the world we're living in. With Christmas just around the corner, we'd suggest you buy yourself a copy and listen to see if it doesn't make for a strong gift.

The Cowboy Junkies? Betty and Cedric both complained about their version of "I Don't Want To Be A Solider" by John Lennon. Betty's not a big fan of rap, Cedric is. But both felt Rebel's rap hurt the song more than it helped it. The song has a quiet hypnotic feel as done by the Junkies then Rebel stomps in. Cedric questioned why, after countless bedroom whisper raps by L.L. Cool Jay, Rebel didn't choose a similar approach? The song's a strange mix and some will enjoy it, other's won't.

That's the only complaint that we had regarding the album. When Wally joined us, he'd just finished listening to the CD. He enjoyed "I Don't Want To Be A Solider" but hadn't heard Betty & Cedric's criticsm. Having heard it, he said he could see their point but that the track remains one of his favorites and that he feels Rebel's rap adds to the album.If you ever enjoyed the Cowboy Junkies, this is the album to get. Kicking off with Dylan's "License To Kill," the Junkies find the groove and don't let go. The rich textures of their strongest tracks are evident throughout the entire album. Rebecca says if there was a Rock 'n Roll Church to go with the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, the Cowboy Junkies would perform early morning services with this lineup. When Kat sent out the cry for everyone to try to grab up a copy of this CD (sent out the cry Saturday afternoon) there were some grumblings. Elaine felt that she'd been burned by the Junkies in the past with albums that featured four or five key songs and then seemed to run out of steam. Early 21st Century Blues won her over and she feels it's like sitting at a table up front in a small club while the Junkies are on fire and hitting all the right notes.

Jess noted the guitar work (Michael Timmins) on "Two Soldiers" as a stand out with "You're Missing" as a close runner up. Bruce Springsteen fan Mike felt that the Junkies actually improved on Springsteen's version of "You're Missing." One thing that stood out to him was the conversational style of Margo Timmins singing. On The Laura Flanders Show Saturday night, Margo Timmins spoke of the shock it must be getting the news that someone you loved had just died in Iraq and how, if it were, she might be thinking that morning before the news came in, how he always left his shoes lying in the hall. Her singing on this song perfectly captures the quiet moments that emerge in the face of shocking news.

Dona and Ava, who've been on their own music education experience for about a year now, were especially impressed with the cover of Richie Havens "Handouts In The Rain." They feel that it's rare someone manages to match the ache in one of Havens' mournful vocals but that it's done here. We all agreed that at a time when Bono seems determined to write off U2 and music, the Cowboy Junkies bring new life to "One." It provides the perfect note for the CD to go out on.

The Cowboy Junkies would prefer that, if you order online, you order the album through their website. (You can also purchase Dolly Parton's Those Were The Days online at Sugar Hill Records.) Possibly, like us, you'll prefer to rush out and get them both.We think that they make a great companion set. We also are glad to see artists who are willing to do more than go around blathering about the fun in washing out Lance Armstrong's dirty briefs while offering banal crap like "Where Has All The Love Gone" (the ", man" -- as C.I. noted -- is implied). These are strong statements from artists who are trying to create something a little deeper than "Good Is Good" ("and bad is bad"). As this country approaches the third year anniversary of the invasion in March, we're still amazed by how so few "artists" seem to have been effected in any way, shape or form. (Maybe they're trying, like Carole King with the altering of the lyrics to "Sweet Seasons," not to offend the politicians?)

Art is supposed to reflect life, it's supposed to comment on the world around us. So it's more than surprising to us that so few have cared to even dip a toe in the water of current events. Lot of Petulia Clarks cautioning "Don't Sleep In The Subway" but not a lot of people asking "What's Going On?" One song is enjoyable kitsch while the other is art. History and legacies aren't made, people aren't remembered, by standing quietly on the sidelines. That's a lesson that's lost on too many of "artists" today. Fortunately, Dolly Parton and the Cowboy Junkies aren't afraid to weigh in.Both do it via albums of covers (Michael Timmins wrote "December Skies" and "This World Dreams Of" on Early 21st Century Blues, the other nine tracks are covers). If someone feels they can't write something strong (the Rolling Stones wrote two strongs commenting on the occupation on A Bigger Bang), than they shouldn't. But instead of putting the listener to sleep with bad rhymes and really obvious imagery ("rolling thunder"), they can find a song written by someone else. The Junkies and Parton are weighing in on the world around them. That alone should peek your interest. The fact that these are also two solid CDs should make you think about purchasing them.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

News review

Here's my part of the news review from The Third Estate Sunday Review. Jim called to remind me about the editorial we'll work on tonight and also to ask if I'd posted yet. We're supposed to offer our sections of the news review because it lets our readers see us covering something else. Problem with that is I do music here, I do music there. I'm not doing anything different. But just as it is what it is, I am what I am in an almost Popeye manner!

To be serious for a moment, C.I. was ripped off. I've got e-mails on that. Yeah, I know C.I. got ripped off. Yeah rip-off artist is a jerk. "What can I do?" is the question I'm asked. You're doing it. You're telling your friends. This isn't the first time rip-off has ripped someone off and rip-off long ago left the human race. This is one more thing to pass on and rip-off's image will further erode.

See rip-off's got an organ behind him. But he's . . . He's the Monkees, okay? C.I.'s the Mamas and the Papas. Like Cass once said of the two, the Monkees will get the hit but the Mamas and the Papas will have the legend. So when you're mad, and you should be, I'm mad too, just remember we're dealing with Davy Jones, et al, a bunch of actors hired to pretend they're musicians, versus the very groovy Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot, Denny Dougherty and John Phillips. C.I.'s organice, rip-off is plastic. Take comfort in that.

Here's the thing from the news review:

C.I.: Thank you, Rebecca. Due to the time we used on The Times, we're running short so Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man and Kat of Kat's Corner will do a joint entertainment report. Betty, why don't you start.
Betty: Joal Ryan summarizes the TV season thus far and notes that Chris O'Donnell's show was one of the first casualties. Wonder if "Lisel" still holds "deep affection" for O'Donnell's alleged "adorableness"? In every non-entertaining news, I'll join with Laura Flanders in expressing my disappointment that the Millions More March promised a lot, talked a great deal about inclusion, but, as noted on The Laura Flanders Show, when it came time to put their money where their mouth's were, they elected to uninvite the sole openly gay speaker. They put on a good show ahead of time. At a time when one of the issues the black community needs to address includes AIDS rate, this black woman is highly offended that a promised spot to an openly gay speaker was denied at the last minute. The promoters were happy to push this speaker as a sign of how they'd changed, grown and were going to be more inclusive. But in the end, they demonstrated that was only talk. That's an editorial statment from me and may or may not reflect the opinions of others particiapting. Now I'll hand off to Kat.
Kat: I've got your back, Betty. I agree one hundred percent. And I've got three things. Dona told me to take my time but I know we're all tired, and many of us angry, so I'll stick with three things. First, to correct the statement earlier, this is actually the third time that the same writer ripped off The Common Ills. This summer, at The Common Ills, you, C.I., noted, in an apology format, that you had neglected to cite BuzzFlash for their work in pressing the Plame issue. Shortly after you posted that entry giving them the credit, the same writer suddenly remembered to give credit to BuzzFlash. That's one. Two. On Labor Day, The New York Times falsely announced the release of Greg Dulli, formerly of the Afghan Whigs, album Amber Highlights. The CD had previously been sold only at concerts. The CD is now being sold, not Labor Day week as The Times announced would be the case, online at Dulli's own site and at Dulli has only manufactured 5,000 copies of the CD. For those of us, like myself, who read that the album was coming out the Tuesday after Labor Day in the paper of record and went to Tower, et al to find this new CD, The New York Times owes not only a correction but an apology. It won't happen. But it needs to be noted that before they do their next "upcoming releases" they need to check their facts. They also need to ask why an album with only 5,000 copies manufactured was even noted since they don't cover independent releases as a general rule? Third Bono's got problems. Currently, as noted at the BBC, he's slamming politicians for attempting to profit off U2. Named are Hillary Clinton and Rick Santorum, who are using their suites at concerts as fundraisers. Bono's offended. A spokesperson for the group tells the BBC: "U2 concerts are categorically not fundraisers for any politician . . . They are rock concerts for U2 fans." Of course, it's perfectly okay to give seats out to Bully Boy twins or to Hatchet face from the Senate. If a line's been crossed, it was crossed when Bono put himself in service of the Bully Boy and Tony Blair. Bono's also, as reported by The New York Times, on the good end of tax breaks in Ireland and fighting to keep it that way. Man of the people, Bono.After the phoniness of Live 8, Bono's karma appears to be out to get him.
C.I.: Kat, you read Z-Net religously. Would you like to comment on the article in it re: Bono?
Kat: "How Rock Stars Betrayed The Poor" should be required reading to anyone still thinking investment guru Bono is a man of the people. The article addresses the Live 8 concerts and makes it clear that Geldof, Bob Geldof, knew ahead of time that the whole aid talk was a sham. He was warned ahead of time. Still he and Bono pushed it as historic. Only to act surprised later on when it was obvious that the aid package was nothing to cheer about.
C.I.: Thank you, Kat and thank you, Betty. That wraps up another Third Estate Sunday Review News Review. We thank Dallas, always, for hunting down links. We thank Jess' parents for all their help in hunting down topics. We thank Jim and Dona of The Third Estate Sunday Review for being the online "producers" of this and making sure that everything flows. Hopefully, they did such a great job that you won't even be able to tell where we stopped to take a one and a half hour break. Thanks also to Ava who got stuck with a statement and put her own report on hold. The statement was the statement of The Third Estate Sunday Review minus myself because I'm the only one who didn't read the article in question. Nor do I intend to. But with The Third Estate Sunday Review claiming me, I need to clarify that the statement wasn't made by me and I don't intend to make a statement other than it's nice to be read. We'll note that community member Wally has just started his own site, The Daily Jot. We'll see you next week.