Tuesday, October 30, 2012

1980 in music pt 3: Bruce Springsteen - The River

Fatal car crashes, shotgun weddings, layoffs, mothers-in-law ... a period of decline in the USA chronicled in a massive double album release from Bruce Springsteen (and the E Street Band).

The USA suffered the humiliation of its Embassy being seized in Tehran, followed by a failed rescue attempt, and also boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Many believed that the United States was in an irreversible decline and had already been eclipsed by the communist world.

Following the "Darkness on the Edge of Town" album, Bruce came back with the even darker "The River" album in 1980. He and his band were actually on the rise that year, selling out massive arenas and playing 3 and 4 hour concerts to rave reviews.

Monday, October 29, 2012

San Francisco Giants, 2012 World Champions

There's a great line in the movie "Moneyball" about putting together a winning team which is like "an island of misfit toys". The A's had no money and they had to scrape together bits and pieces (which eventually ended up on the Yankees and Red Sox anyway, at which point they had to do it all over again...). The A's crushed the Giants in 1989 with McGuire and Canseco, but under Moneyball never made it to the World Series.

The Giants on the other hand, the rich neighbors across the Bay, are considered a big spending, large market team and they throw money around (occasionally) and it almost NEVER pans out [possible exception - Barry Bonds]. Yet still, amazingly, they have now won 2 World Series in 3 years. And they have done it with the largest collection of junk [at least on offense] playing five levels above themselves at exactly the right time. They've now done it twice with almost a completely different set of broken rejects and that in itself is an amazing accomplishment and a true mark of their team spirit, crazy personalities, and a refusal to acknowledge reality at any point in time.

The pitching staff - on paper - is fantastic, no argument. Three Cy Young winners and a fantastic young pitcher in Madison Bumgarner who could win his own Cy Young someday. Of course, Zito is the biggest free agent bust of all time at $126 million who was so bad in 2010 he was actually left off the playoff roster, and for the past 6 years has been consistently sub-par. Finally, in 2012 he began to be almost effective and usable but clearly still a shadow of his former self. Tim Lincecum, who was fantastic in the playoff run in 2010 and was at one time the number one starter, was demoted to the bullpen for being hopelessly erratic and inconsistent this year. Matt Cain, is still an ace and an all star, but remember - a pitcher only pitches one out of five games. Ryan Vogelsong, brought back from baseball exile in Japan last year, pitched out of his mind this season and in the playoffs. Finally, the iconic closer Brian Wilson was injured in the first month of the season and gone for the year. And above all, batting title contender, all star and the biggest offensive threat, Melky Cabrera, was caught using steroids and suspended for 50 games. The Giants didn't bother to reactivate him for the NLCS and WS and he seems destined for the Mets.

Aside from the pitching staff, the World Championship winning team from 2010 is almost completely gone. Only the catcher, Buster Posey was a starter. 2012 MVP Pablo Sandoval actually rode the bench in 2010 after having an awful 2nd half of the season. And that's it really ... 2010 MVP Edgar Renteria was out the door even before the t-shirts were printed with his name and "MVP" on them. Cody Ross, 2010's clutch hitting phenom, went to the AL and a big payday. Ishikawa - gone. Aubrey Huff - benched. Schierholtz - traded.

And in their place, almost magically, the Giants assembled a collection of small ball garbage who hit almost no home runs (apparently about 10 teams hit more home runs AFTER THE ALL STAR BREAK then the Giants hit all year) and yet somehow managed to:
1) beat the Dodgers for the NL West title even after the Dodgers bought $250 million dollars worth of players from the Red Sox
2) win 6 games in the playoffs while facing elimination including 3 consecutive road games at Cinncinati. That's SIX games where any other team would have packed it in.
3) Sweep the Detroit Tigers, a team with better pitching, better power, the triple crown winner, a full week of rest and the best pitcher in baseball.

So credit the GM, credit Bruce Bochy the happy warrior manager, and credit the misfit toys themselves:
Buster Posey - missed almost all of 2011 with a horrible injury that nearly ended his career
Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval - forgotten in 2010, came to camp in 2011 in far better shape and became the last offensive threat left on this team as Posey slumped in the postseason
Brandon Belt - rookie sensation
Marco Scutaro - late season cast off acquired from Colorado who hit .350 in the postseason and drove in the winning run in the last game of the World Series
Angel Pagan - fantastic in the NLCS
Gregor Blanco - career minor leaguer called on to replace Melky Cabrera
Brendan Crawford - not exactly Derek Jeter but who made some great defensive plays in the World Series
Hunter Pence - expensive acquisition from Philly who absolutely sucked in the playoffs yet made several key plays in the NLCS including an absolutely bizarre broken bat double and scored and drove in runs in the close World Series games 2, 3 and 4. Also the spiritual leader of the team and captain of the pre-game ritual. He'll be gone next year too.
Special mention to the brilliant and crafty starting pitching: Matt "The Horse" Cain, Ryan "Vogeltron" Vogelsong, Madison "MadBom" Bumgarner, Barry "Planet Zito" Zito and Tim "The Freak" Lincecum.

Never has such a collection of cast offs, misfits, misfires, rejects and fill-ins, won it all in such spectacular fashion. (Well, except for 2010).


Sunday, October 28, 2012

2013 Nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2013 induction have been announced:

  •  the Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  • Chic
  • Deep Purple
  • Heart
  • Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  • Albert King
  • Kraftwerk
  • the Marvelettes
  • the Meters
  • Randy Newman
  • N.W.A
  • Procol Harum
  • Public Enemy
  • Rush
  • Donna Summer

There is even a fan poll which you can vote on here

I think usually about 5 acts get in per year...

If it were up to me it would be: Rush, Deep Purple, NWA, Public Enemy and Kraftwerk

But if I were a betting man I would say the final inductees will be: Donna Summer, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Procol Harem and the Meters

Deep Purple really should be in the hall of fame --- not sure how they are any less influential than Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Kinks, etc ...

I am a huge Rush fan but it seems very strange to me that Genesis are in the hall of fame, and Rush is nominated, but Yes is not in the hall. I think Yes was far more influential than either Genesis or Rush. (I would also like to see Iron Maiden and King Crimson get in.)

But as Axl Rose recently noted, its basically whoever Jan Wenner likes and not really having anything to do with Rock n Roll regarding who gets in.

IMHO, yes, the Hall is a private endeavour but at some point they will need to widen and open up the voting process to encompass a far bigger pool of rock journalists as voters, similar to the baseball hall of fame.

So What Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Wallace Roney, Tony Williams, R...

In a brief departure from 1980 you are invited to hear 80% of Miles' second great quintet along with the fantastic Wallace Roney pay tribute to the passing of Miles Davis ... Those of you familiar with the ORIGINAL "so what" will be a little shocked at the speed but this is actually how Miles played it most of the time ... from the live recordings at the Blackhawk in '61, the Carnegie Hall albums from '64, Plugged Nickel '65 ... "So What" was sometimes even FASTER than this ...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

1980 in music pt 2: Talking Heads Remain In Light

1980 was a year of change in popular music. Talking Heads' "Remain in Light" album sounds nothing like their first album (Talking Heads '77) and at the least an extreme left turn from their 2nd and 3rd efforts (more songs about buildings and food, fear of music).

As far as I know, nothing similar (in western music) had been attempted before. These are less songs and less jams then rhythm tracks and word expositions. A lot of the sound and world music influence was helped along by producer Brian Eno (and indeed you can hear a little bit of his "taking tiger mountain (by strategy)" ethos here and there), and a huge difference was the presence of Adrian Belew. Adrian Belew, who would become even more famous with King Crimson in 1981, was discovered by Frank Zappa playing in a Nashville covers band, and featured on Zappa's album Sheik Yerbouti and other live albums of the era. Later he left Zappa to tour with Bowie (he would play Robert Fripp's HEROES solo among other riffs) where he was introduced to the talking heads.

Those of you who are familiar with KC's excellent eighties trio of Discipline, Beat and 3 of a perfect pair, will immediately recognize Adrian's tone, personality and contributions here right from the first track, "Born Under Punches". Another standout track, and the "hit" of this album, was "Once in a lifetime". World music loops, and oddbeat spoken word actually coalesce into something of an all time radio favorite.

You may find yourself behind the wheel of a strange automobile...

[1980 would only get weirder (and better)]

Thursday, October 25, 2012

1980 in music - part 1 - Rush - Permanent Waves

The Seventies, thankfully, were over. I think ELP personally killed them off with their 70 piece orchestra tour of '77. Disco was dying. Analog keyboards were on their way out and digital pieces of garbage like the Yamaha FM-7 were about to place their evil mark on an entire decade of top 40 hits.

But some good music, here and there, under the radar, was being made.

Canadian prog rock trio Rush, including 3 of the greatest musicians of all time in bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart, had already been relentlessly touring and releasing albums for 5 years to great success when they recorded "Permanent Waves", released towards the end of 1980.

Arguably, "Moving Pictures" is the greatest Rush album of all time, but "Permanent Waves" is a close close second. "Spirit of Radio", is for my money the signature track of all time for the band - and "Freewill" another one in the top 5 all time. Fantastic real guitar, bass and drumming on this one (as opposed to later Rush efforts of the decade) and a first stab at some world music here (Reggae break in "Spirit").

Side 2 is perhaps a bit weaker than side 1, but "Natural Science" is an epic prog journey in the Rush 70s style.

Enjoy the virtuoso playing and extremely high vocals on this one...