Purchase: Ash, Girl From Mars
Friday, March 11, 2016
Purchase: Ash, Girl From Mars
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
The Mars Volta: L'Via L'Viaquez (live)
[purchase Frances the Mute]
First, a little plug—In addition to continuing to contribute here, I have started a new blog to allow me to write about music and life, without being limited by the bi-weekly themes we have here. Please check out Another Old Guy....Writing About Music, and like its Facebook page. Thanks.
I’ve written in the past about the pleasure that I have gotten from going to concerts with my kids. There was a brief period in each of their lives where they were old enough to want to go to shows, but not old enough to go there by themselves, or where the location was deemed inappropriate for attendance without parental supervision. And, being the lover of music that I am, I often was designated (or volunteered) to be the supervising parent.
When my son was in his early teens, he and his friends became fans of The Mars Volta, and I had to agree that they were an interesting band. It is always interesting to play “spot the influence” when you listen to new artists, and the first thing that came to mind when I heard The Mars Volta was King Crimson, due to their complex song structures and the mix of rock, jazz and avant-garde sounds. One difference, though, was that while later Crimson lineups incorporated some elements of New Wave music, they never really adopted more hard core punk sounds, or emo. The Mars Volta, with their roots in At The Drive-In, though, cite, among many others (including King Crimson), Throbbing Gristle and Black Flag, as influences.
Although I had only listened to a relatively small amount of their music, I was intrigued, and when my son and his friends wanted to go see the band, at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC in 2005, it was not a hard sell to get me to drive them in, see the show (and provide appropriate supervision) and drive them home.
It was quite an experience. As I thought about writing this piece, I tried to remember back 11 years (almost exactly), to how I felt about the show, and I found this review, which pretty much nailed my experience:
Admittedly, their “noodling” did get boring at first (I wondered if I was going to like the show during the first 20 minutes), but I actually grew to like it more and more as time went on. What seemed a little boring at first, completely swept me away with it by the end.
Another influence that added to The Mars Volta’s eclectic mix is Latin music, which is no surprise considering the background of a number of the members. For the show that we saw, the band invited salsa music legend Larry Harlow to join them on stage. You can see him in the blurry picture above that I found online. Harlow, who is not Latino, but is actually from an Eastern European Jewish family, has had a long, celebrated career as a multi-instrumentalist (with piano a specialty), songwriter and producer in the salsa world, and is nicknamed “el Judio Maravilloso.”
Harlow’s piano adds a traditional Latin touch to the great song L’Via L’Viaquez, both on the album cut on which he played, and live, as you can hear in the featured version. I haven’t listened to The Mars Volta much recently, and I don’t think that my son does, either, but whenever one of their songs pop up on my iPod’s random shuffle playlist, I remember both how inventive they are, and that night at the now, regrettably closed, Roseland Ballroom.
Monday, March 7, 2016
purchase Country Joe "Feel Like ..."
You've likely seen "The Martian" and you may have read some of the debate regarding the accuracy of the depicted storms on the planet (Yes, there appear to be winds: No, they don't appear to be as severe as shown.) However, embedded in the psyche/definition of Mars, is a certain amount of stormy violence. Mars is the Roman god of war. A rather stormy entity.
And then, there is the whole Venus/Mars conceit: men are stormy/warlike; women are beautiful and pacific - but, it is opposites that attract. It's human nature for men to be martially inclined and for women to be ... "lovely". After all, Venus is the Roman god of love, and the related word roots apparently go back as far as Sanskrit - leaving us with War and Love/Aggression and Beauty. Ergo, it seems logical that you could expect a plethora of "ballads & odes" in popular culture/music/literature that delve into our theme this week. And, there are many - depending on the path you take through the memes related to Martial/Martian/Mars-ian.
I guess I chose this here post partly because of my age, and partly because of my beliefs: I would have registered as a "Conscientious Observer" if I had not been exempt from the draft as someone who was eligible for a one-way trip to Vietnam on my 18th birthday back in the early '70s. Sadly, I was a fraction too young to get parental permission to attend Woodstock, but - well before the movie and related hype - was following Country Joe "Fish". And so his iconic "Fish Cheer" and "Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die" represented much of what I and much of my generation believed in. Because, the end result of much that is martial is that someone has to perish. Often - on the personal level - in vain - despite the glories of nations and ideologies. And that's not my bag. Perish? We all do. To "support" a misguided government's agenda? Ask Country Joe. Talk about stormy relationships with your society ... Sheesh!