Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Dancing About Architecture, Part MMXXXVVIIII
(More about that at the end.) So I got these for my birthday. On the day I actually went out and ordered them, I suddenly found myself wondering if I didn't, in fact, want the deluxe edition of The Stranger, but that was 44 bucks and the original format was 18 I think.
And I feel like I made the right decision. These are two albums that come form a period in Joel's career when he was really, really making albums. These are concept albums in the purest sense of the term. They don't tell a narrative story, or even narrative stories, so much as they set out examples of concepts. The Stranger is all about coming into adulthood. "Movin' Out," well, pretty obviously, is about rejecting stereotypical notions of grown-up success; "The Stranger" is about confronting the world of adult eroticism, although I kind of felt as a kid, and know now as an adult, that he's exagerrating a bit: we don't all have masks we put on when we want to get kinky. Plenty of us a re capable of getting kinky without any kind of formal assistance at all.
And on and on. If you know the album and the songs on it, you'd probably pretty much agree. Except, well . . . I guess I oughta qualify: these songs are all about young adulthood. "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" is about watching other people's lives run off the tracks and wondering if your own is not far from the same fate. "Vienna" is about that moment when you feel like you have made it: you have leaped onto this strange precipice known as adulthood, and sooner or later, out there on the horizon, lies a first big vacation. "Only the Good Die Young" is about tempting someone into the ring of adulthood who had been daunted into thinking the trappings of adulthood were sinful. "She's Always A Woman" is about realizing that people can be very different within intimate realtions than they seem to be in public. "Get It Right the First Time" is about that moment when dating goes from being a ritual to a requirement: it's not just about making this one connection right now. There's more at stake suddenly. "Everybody Has A Dream" is about the realization that being in a mature, commited relationship is, in itself, something of a fantastic notion. Gee. I wasn't going to do that, but lookit there, I did. Knocked it down song by song.
52nd Street is about escape. Escape into a lover's arms, another part of town, maybe even a part of New York that only exists insofar as people are willing to believe in it; escape from the lie-telling real world, escape into music (both "Rosalinda's Eyes" and "Zanzibar"), maybe even escape into a relationship that is as painful as it is pleasureable ("Stiletto," duh). When I first got the thing, I remember thinking I was gonna have problems with it based solely on the cover: Billy Joel doesn't play the trumpet. But then I listened to it and thought, "Nah. Billy can pretend he plays the trumpet if he wants to."
(Also, I have walked the length of 52nd Street, and I never did find the wall he is leaning up against. Not to say this picture wasn't taken there; it could have been around some corner I didn't see, or they maybe painted it since then. Or maybe I just missed it. Cause, New York, y'know?)
So now I have in my Billy Joel collection, The Stranger, 52nd Street, Songs in the Attic, and The Nylon Curtain. I will probably have to buy a copy of Glass Houses one of these days. And I will most likely end up getting a copy of Turnstiles. It has been argued by many that most of what you'd want from Turnstiles is on Songs in the Attic anyways, but I have to disagree, if no other reason that "New York State of Mind" isn't. And that's something I think I ought to have available. Because, New York, y'know?
PS: I followed my listening of The Stranger with Leonard Bersnstein and the New York Philharmonic performing Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition and Night On Bald Mountain. Which seems very oddly appropriate.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
There Is No Movie Of The Day
Today's lunch is potstickers & lemon grass chicken wraps with ginger sauce, hoisin sauce, and Chinese mustard, which is something I have determined I will never do again. Chinese food should come from a restaurant. Period. At home, I don't have a wok, if I did I couldn't get it hot enough to operate properly, and if I could I wouldn't be using it enough to properly season it. So what I have here, frankly, is fine enough. But it isn't . . . right. Alright. That's that: you either know what I mean or you don't. De gustibus non disbutandum, largely because at a certain point it's impossible to describe why you like or dislike what's on the plate.
But the real reason that there is not movie of the week-- aside from my inherent fickleness-- is that it is almost my birthday.
This year, the Wifey decided that rather than hand her a list of CD's and stuff, I could go ahead and go on a spree at Amazon, handing me the arbitrary limit of 100 bucks. Which is great: I ordered the stuff, and it came in most of a week before my actual birthday, which means I get to listen to the stuff this week and go do something else on the actual day. Whatever my faults, I am amazing easy to please.
So yesterdays's selection, for my listening pleasure, was The Alan Parson's Project's Eye in the Sky. This is one of those albums I owned way back when; I bought it on the strength of the hit single title track and defended it to all who told me it was a rotten piece of ofal that would damage my soul. This is the musical equivalent of a novel written by a literary critic. Alan Parsons is a noted engineer and producer, most noted for working with Pink Floyd at the heighth of their prowess. His chief collaborator, Eric Woolfson, is a singer-songwriter-producer-etceteragrad. And the album sounds alot like what you would expect from guys who know how it's done. Most of the numbers are extremely well done, others seem over-written, or over-producted to the point of sounding like aural mush. But it's a good thing to hear in its entirety. It is very much a concept album, not inasmuch as the songs all confront a singular theme or tell some kind of narrative story, but rather inas each track represents a particular kind of aural layer in the overall cake. And if that's not a murky and ineffective metaphor, I don't know what is. It's very easy (and was done often back in the day) to think of this as Pink Floyd Lite, largely because it is.
But the real treat here was the bonus tracks. Now, these days I don't go in for bonus tracks much. I have a copy of Santana's Abraxas that I have to jump up and turn off because they included a bunch of crappy live tracks at the end. And all studio versions are supperior to live versions, unless, and I mean this, you are Cheap Trick, in which case the exact inverse is true.
In this case, the bonus material is alternately illuminating and ridiculous, almost precisely. The real treats are the first two bonus tracks: a demo version of the opening theme, "Sirius" (if you're a sports fan you know it: it's that piece that goes "Bow-dow-burkr-dirkr-bow-dow-burkr-dirkr"); and a version of the ballad "Old and Wise," voiced by Woolfson, which perfectly illustrates the fact that if a ballad is written broadly enough, it doesn't matter who sings it. But the real treats were the last two bonus tracks, an instrumental re-working of several of the albums themes and an orchestra rendition, respectively, which go on for freakin' ever.
The next offerings will be Billy Joel's albums 52nd Street and The Stranger, and then after that Leonard Bernstein & The New York Philharmonic's performances of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on Bald Mountain. Oh, wait; what was that I said about live versions?
PS: Oh, year: and Brad Paisley's Play, which I have already read the liner notes for.
PPS: But now, I am watching The History of the Joke with Lewis Black. So pretty much everything else will have to wait.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Another One You Won't Read
The sun shines bright on a clear fall day;
The leaves are turning, the breeze is cool.
I shall stroll through the grass to let my shoes collect the dew;
I shall peer through green trees at the clear blue sky.
I shall count the true things, one two three
I shall thank God for what is good
I shall lament to God for what is ill
I shall pray for the wisdom to know between.
Today is a good day to remember absent friends
And recall fond memories.
Piper Laurie is alive and well
Somewhere in America.
It is important to remember that some beauty
Is less than skin deep; an image, an impression,
A passing glance at a face you seem to recall
From sweeter, darker times.
Other things are more permanent, deeper
Than they appear. It is an accepted fact that many truths
Are bitter fruits of hard experience. But I hear laughter.
I hear such laughter.
Today is a good day to remember
That life is long, that love is strong,
And that there are no wolves at our door.
I shall run the back roads, and I shall watch
God’s pastel go from green to fire to fawn.
Piper Laurie is alive and well
Somewhere in America.
Monday, November 03, 2008