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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sad news about the Tragically Hip's Gord Downie



First it was Bowie, then Lemmy, then Merle, and finally on to Prince. Now we have received word that Gord Downie has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

2016 officially sucks.

Now, I know that Gord Downie isn't nearly as famous as aforementioned quartet of iconic musicians, and thankfully Gord is still living, but the news--for the Tragically Hip's biggest fans--is equally as terrible and unthinkable.

I've decided that I need to finally follow through on my little essays about all of the Hip's albums, a project I started several years ago on this blog but only made it through the band's first self-titled EP. I've taken some notes on the Hip's debut full-length album Up To Here and hope to post it soon.


"Courage, it couldn't come at a worse time"

Random stuff written back on May 25th and now seeing the light of day

"I write to my mortality."--Sherman Alexie, A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment podcast episode 25. Although I'd never compare myself to an accomplished author like Sherman Alexie, or most accomplished authors out there for that matter, I'd say at least half of my compulsion to write is based on what Alexie says. Maybe it's egotistical on my part, but I'd like my ramblings to possibly outlive me, so I guess I write for some sense of "immortality."


Alexie and co-host Jess Walter also talk about Go Set a Watchman and how they weren't bothered that Atticus Finch is not the paragon of virtuousness from To Kill a Mockingbird. I agree. I wasn't bothered by this characterization of Atticus. It seemed fitting for the time period and setting portrayed in the book.


I'm a little saddened and disturbed by the fact that I sometimes dream that I'm on Facebook.


The Michigan State Senate is terrible and Governor Snyder is a crook. Just sayin'.


Isn't "Just sayin'" the most passively aggressive and irritating phrase currently in popular usage? Just sayin'.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Some shit I wrote about Michael Jackson and Prince seven years ago


As anyone who wastes too much time on Facebook knows, every day something called "Your Memories" pops up. Facebook reminded me that seven years ago, a fellow FB friend posted an "album face-off" between Michael Jackson's Off the Wall and Prince's Dirty Mind. Here are a few comments I made. I don't know that there's anything earth-shattering in these comments, but I still hold true to what I wrote in 2009. By the way, keep in mind that both Michael Jackson and Prince were still living at this point.
Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall vs. Prince’s Dirty Mind (May 12, 2009)

Both of these albums are near and dear to my heart, as I still have both of them on vinyl. My mom gave me "Off the Wall" for my birthday in March '80. It's hard to conceive of a time when MJ was the coolest person on the planet, but he was at the peak of his powers in '79''80 (and up through "Thriller"). He'd just turned 21, had left Motown for Epic, and was free to do his own thing. "Off the Wall" was great then and still funky as hell 30 years later.

Having said that, I'm going to give a slight nod to "Dirty Mind." When that album came out, it was as if it had landed from another planet. I still remember being mesmerized by the utter strangeness of the "Dirty Mind" video. Odd to think now, but back then Michael Jackson was the nice guy with the pop-friendly tunes your mom might even like, while Prince was the X-rated bad boy whose records you had to sneak through the door. --Ultimately, I think "DM" is slightly better than "OTW."
 

More thoughts on Prince:

"Darling Nikki," --oh my!! I recall going to a summer camp at MSU in August '84 and all the kids were a buzz not only about "Purple Rain" but about this song called "Darling Nikki" and its famous line about what she does with the magazine. I had not yet heard the song (or the album) but could hardly wait to get my hands on it (correction: I actually DID own the album, as I'd purchased in in Minneapolis the month before, but hadn't yet had a chance to hear it). The kids spoke of "Darling Nikki" in hushed tones, it was so scandalous! Anytime I even think about what I was into during summer '84, it's Detroit Tigers, Ghostbusters, and Purple Rain! (Wish I could also say that I was digging "Double Nickels on the Dime" and "Zen Arcade" in '84, but I was a nerd from the Thumb and didn't know about those yet!).

Monday, May 9, 2016

Alejandro Escovedo/Lucette at the Ark, Ann Arbor


The following is an slightly edited version of an email I recently sent to a music podcast about an Alejandro Escovedo concert I attended on Wednesday, May 4:

I wanted to tell you about a recent "Dad Rock experience" I had, but first some back story. (Please bear with me--I'll try and not get too long winded):

About a year ago, I reconnected with one of my old college roommates, Paul. We hadn't talked to each other in well over 20 years, but it was as if we'd never lost contact--and one interest we continue to share all these years later is a love of music.

Paul now lives in Lubbock, Texas and is deeply into music from the Lone Star State. In the last few months, he's turned me on to Dallas, Texas-based Alejandro Escovedo. As you guys may already know, Escovedo has a music career dating all the way back to the punk scene of the 1970s when he was a member of the Nuns, then on to Rank and File in the '80s, finally starting his solo career in the early '90s. I'm almost embarrassed to say that I was completely unfamiliar with Escovedo's body of work until just the last few months. To say I have some catching up to do is an understatement, but it's always fun to discover great music you didn't know existed.

Okay, on to the main reason I'm writing to you. This past Wednesday (May 4), Paul was up in Michigan from Texas and invited me to see Alejandro Escovedo (and opening act Lucette) at a small venue in Ann Arbor called the Ark.

Lucette is a young female singer/songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta. Accompanying her lovely singing with only a portable piano (the electric kind that actually sounds like a real piano) she impressed me a great deal. She has one album called "Black is the Color" and if you haven't already heard it, you should check it out. I don't know who to compare her to, but her music has a high lonesome dark quality. It conjures images of a windswept cold day on the Canadian prairie. 

After her opening set, Lucette hung out at the merch table and I was able to get a signed copy of her CD (yes, I still buy CDs!). She's a friendly and gracious young woman, and a talent to watch.

If you guys are already familiar with Alejandro Escovedo, I don't want to bore you with excessive details, but to be succinct about the matter, he is a terrific live performer. He entertained the audience with touching and often hilarious stories, delivered beautiflul tributes to David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Prince. (His niece, Sheila E., was once engaged to Prince, in addition to being a musical collaborator with the Purple One). Escovedo's music is unclassifiable, running the gamut from gentle folk to fiery electric guitar freakouts. It's as if one took Elvis Costello, David Hidalgo/Cesar Rosas, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Mott the Hoople, Ronnie Lane, Neil Young, added a pinch of the Stooges and the MC5 and make a musical soup--you'd come up with Alejandro Escovedo. And the guy is just a hell of a songwriter. His songs are loving and detailed stories of the human experience. In short,  Alejandro Escovedo is a musical polymath.

To top it off, Mr. Escovedo had a meet-and-greet after the show and couldn't have been a sweeter guy.

I see that he will be in your neck of the woods (Alexandria, VA, the Birchmere) on May 27. I highly recommend you two gentlemen go check him out. Maybe bring Mary with you, too. If you're lucky, Lucette will be opening. And if I may be so bold, have Alejandro and/or Lucette on the podcast (if possible). Alejandro Escovedo is one of America's best kept musical secrets, and Lucette is a talent that deserves more exposure.

If you've made it this far into the email, thanks for reading.

Take care and keep up the good work!

Mark Neese