Monthly Archives: April 2009

Patti Smith – Dream Of Life

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Dream Of Life is a stark and haunting portrait of Rock N Roll singer, poet and artist Patti Smith released in 2008.  Part historical document and part multimedia art project filmed by Steven Sebring but populated by Smiths talents and works.  The film begins with a rapid overview of the subjects life narrated by Smith herself in her own words.  The whole film is in fact narrated by Smith and includes a mixture of mundane, touching and bizarre moments.  The narration is an absolute pleasure as I have always found Smith’s voice hypnotic, and her words are particularly wise and elegant in this film.  Filmed over the span of 11 years, you’ll catch glimpses of Smith’s friends, family, and the legions of her adoring fans.  Patti Smith is a bit of a super fan, in the film you get the pleasure of hearing about many of Smith’s favorites including William Burroughs, Rimbaud, William Blake, Bob Dylan, and Walt Whitman.  The film is a little short on coverage of the CBGBs years and focuses more on Patti’s early upbringing, later family life, and the people that she has lost over the years (including her brother, good friend – Photographer Robert Mapplethorp, and her husband Fred “Sonic” Smith of the MC5).  Overall the film can be slow and abstract at times but the space and oddities make it fit and gives it relevance in Smith’s body of work.  Her main strength has always been her words and I found it particularly easy to hang on each and every one.

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Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars – The Motion Picture

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This concert film of David Bowie & the Spiders during the last public appearance as his alter ego Ziggy Stardust is directed by D.A. Pennebaker who is best known for directing the classic Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back.  Oddly the film took a rather long time to surface as it only premiered in 1979 and didn’t see wide distribution until 1983.  The film was originally filmed in Pennebaker’s rough cinema verite’ style on 35mm and then remastered in 2003 for its 30th anniversary release on DVD.  This remaster didn’t do much for the quality of the picture, it is still grainy, dark and sometimes jerky.  This of course really doesn’t diminish its enjoyment, or at least it didn’t for me as it is a landmark performance from Bowie and his Spiders.  The band includes the extremely talented guitarist Mick Ronson, who I consider to be criminally overlooked.  The costuming and make up is a thing to see as Bowie takes the stage wearing his strange gender bending alien glam, alternating between wearing a kimono from mars and other strange sci-fi hero costumes the whole time sporting his killer space mullet.  The concert features songs from Bowie’s albums Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane, and the album of the same name.

One of my favorite moments is when Bowie starts miming… I’m not kidding he actually mimes that he is behind an invisible wall up on stage which he eventually is able to break through and bridge the gap between him and the audience.  I was fairly surprised that the venue was populated by mostly young women screaming in adoration, I guess I underestimated Bowie’s sex appeal during the early 70s.  Early on in the film you get to see the crowd file into the venue which is always fun because Bowie fans really like to get dressed up decked out in all sorts of costumey clothes, makeup and accessories (something I got to witness first hand when I went to see him on his Earthling tour in 1997).  Other highlights include a particularly jazzy rendition of “Changes”, and covers of “Love Me Do” (as part of a medley w/ “Jean Genie”), “Lets Spend the Night Together”, and The Velvet Undergrounds “White Light/White Heat”.  You will be disappointed if you are expecting any documentary footage as you really only get glimpses of Bowie getting his make up and wardrobe done backstage during breaks.  These scenes go by uneventful except for a surprise appearance by Ringo Starr and Bowie’s now infamous first wife Angela.  Angela was particularly fun for me to see because I had heard all about their “open relationship” and drugged out escapades together as they are both featured in the Punk book Please Kill Me (see my review here).

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Neil Young’s Albums 1989 – 1996

1989 – 1996 was a period of creative and professional rebirth for Neil Young.  He was inducted into the Rock N’ Roll hall of fame in 1995 and enjoy a renewed popularity and critical acclaim.  He would also be connected by the media to the hottest new music buzz word/style as the Godfather of Grunge.  I have outlined the releases from this era below.  Please note what I deem to be the ESSENTIAL releases.

neil_young_eldorado-150x150 1989 – Neil Young – Eldorado EP: Just 5 songs, 3 of which appear on his next release Freedom.  The first glimpses of Neil back on his game.
neil_young_freedom-150x150 1989 – Neil Young – Freedom: Neil’s best album since 1979’s Rust Never Sleeps.  This release is book ended by a live acoustic version and studio  version with full band of the great anthemic song “Rockin’ in the Free World”.  ESSENTIAL
neil_young_ragged_glory-150x150 1990 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Ragged Glory: Neil reunites with the Horse and famed producer David Briggs for this album that proved that he and the Horse could still rock out.  I have always thought that the title of this record was the perfect descriptor for the bands particular brand of raw, unbridled rock n roll. ESSENTIAL
neil_young_harvest_moon-150x150 1992 – Neil Young – Harvest Moon: This album was partly intended to be a sequel to one of Neil’s most popular albums Harvest, having roughly the same players and feel as the original.  It unfortunately doesn’t quite live up to it’s predecessor but it is a solid and consistent release.  ESSENTIAL
neil_young_sleeps_with_angels-150x150 1994 – Neil Young – Sleeps With Angels: Neil was creatively reinvigorated and he claims he was inspired by the tragic suicide of Kurt Cobain.  Sadly the albums release would precede another death, as David Briggs would die of lung cancer in 1995.  This was their last collaboration together.  The album features some of the most instrumentally and tonally diverse to come from the band.
neil_young_mirror_ball-150x150 1995 – Neil Young – Mirror Ball: Instead of using Crazy Horse on this release he decided to enlist Pearl Jam and they were happy to back him.  Whatever your opinion of the band they are a tight rock band and they provided a great backdrop to some enjoyable songs on this release.  ESSENTIAL
neil_young_broken_arrow-150x150 1996 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Broken Arrow: Along the same vibe as the previous two records.  After this record Neil would retreat from public life and go on a long hiatus. 
Live Albums from this period:
neil_young_arc_weld-150x150 1991 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Arc/Weld: Weld is a great heavy set of Neil/Horse classics.  This conventional live album was also releases as a double disc set that included the bonus disc Arc which is a bit of an anomaly being it was a compilation of snippets of shapeless heavy distortion recorded during that tour. 
neil_young_unplugged-150x150 1993 – Neil Young – Unplugged: Famously preformed twice because Neil wasn’t happy with the first performance.  In fact he was so unhappy with it he paid for the first performance himself.  Although he was extremely sensitive about the decision to team up with MTV on this, he ends up putting out a compelling acoustic performance with some great acoustic versions of classics like Mr. Soul, Pocahontas, and Transformer Man.  ESSENTIAL

Here is a playlist I have put together featuring my favorites from this era.  If you can not see the playlist below, please follow this link.

This will be my last post on Neil Young… for at least awhile.  I will not be covering Neil’s music from 2000 on as I have found little interest in it outside of a few releases.

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New York Doll – The Movie

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This documentary released in 2005 is about Arthur “Killer” Kane, former bassist of the legendary New York Rock band The New York Dolls and his involvement in the New York Dolls reunion at the 2004 Morrissey curated Meltdown Festival.  After the Dolls broke up in the mid 70s (after releasing only 2 great records),  Arthur started a few different bands that didn’t really go anywhere and eventually his drinking had gone out of control and he sank into obscurity.  Fast forward almost 30 years we find Arthur living in LA and working at the local Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Family History Center Library having converted fully to the religion.  In 2004 Arthur’s dream came true when Morrissey put together a New York Dolls reunion.

The movie surprisingly give a pretty decent (although abridged) history of the New York Dolls besides giving you Arthur’s compelling story.   I had thought the film New York Dolls – All Dolled Up* was going to be a documentary on the band but was extremely disappointed as it is just 3 hours of rough live and interview footage filmed when the band was together.   The other film is interesting but far from a must see.

One of the best things about this film is that you get the interesting perspective of getting Arthur’s story not only from the subject but also from his friends and higher ups in the LDS church and his coworkers.   The film also includes interviews with the other living band members (David Johansen & Sylvain Sylvain), old friends from the scene (Photographer Bob Gruen, other proto-punk/punk musicians), and famous musicians (Chrissie Hynde and Bob Geldof).

Check out the trailer via youtube.

Other New York Dolls related films:

New York Dolls – All Dolled Up (2005) *note that this is not a documentary as I mention above

Morrissey Presents The Return of The New York Dolls – Live from Royal Albert Hall 2004 (2004)

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Neil Young’s Albums 1981 – 1988

1981 -1988 were tough years for Neil Young.  At the start of this period he had just signed a million dollar per album contract with Geffen records (and had differences with them throughout the whole period) and his second child had been diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy.  At times during this period you could tell he was burnt out on making music.  To be honest, the releases from this period are challenging and you will be hard pressed to find any songs that come close to the brilliance of those he recorded in the sixties and seventies.  Young’s methods, recording technology, attitude, and band members all changed many times during this period.  I have outlined the releases from this era below.

neil_young_reactor-150x150 1981 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Re-ac-tor: The next step on from the heavier tracks off of Rust Never Sleeps.  Unfortunately the mix is off and the material is uninspired. 
neil_young_trans-150x150 1983 – Neil Young – Trans: Young take a hard left turn here and releases an album that features 5 vocoder heavy/electronic music tracks and 3 conventional rock tracks, which completely mystified his critics and fans. 
neil_young_everybodys_rockin-150x150 1983 – Neil Young & The Shocking Pinks – Everybody’s Rockin’: Another genre switch here, this time to Rockabilly.  At the very least features some entertaining songs, some even are a little funny… but the album is representative of this era as they feature style over substance.  
neil_young_old_ways-150x150 1985 – Neil Young – Old Ways: Most of the material was originally recorded in 1982 but not release until 3 years later because of problems with his label.  This time around its a country album for Neil and a cast of guest country stars including Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. 
neil_young_landing_on_water-150x150 1986 – Neil Young – Landing On Water: If I had to label this release with a genre it would be “over-produced corporate 80s synth pop.  A few goods songs but overall probably one of his worst albums.
neil_young_life-150x150 1987 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Life: Back to Crazy Horse again after releasing 4 albums without them.  You get a few decent track among an album that includes some 80s synthy stuff and some conventional NY w/ CH tracks.  Note the cover art featuring someone behind bars with a NY poster on the back wallwhich eludes to his feelings about his record label at the time.  This would be his last record with Geffen (except for the shotty best of from this period entitled Lucky 13.
neil_young_this_notes_for_you-150x150 1988 – Neil Young & The Bluenotes – This Note’s For You: Neil’s first album back on his original label Reprise Records.  This time Neil is backed by The Bluenotes (including a 6 pc horn section) for a album of Blues and R&B numbers.  Includes the song “This Note’s For You” which Neil actually won a the Video of the Year award at the MTV video music awards in 1988 which MTV had previously refused to play because they were parodied the video.  
csny_american_dream-150x150 1988 – Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young – American Dream: Young reunites yet again with these burnouts.  What you get is a bunch of tracks from the wash-ups and a few halfway decent numbers from Neil. 

Even though it is a difficult era, I thought I would still put together a playlist below of my favorites songs from it.  If you can not see the playlist below, please follow this link.

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Neil Young’s Albums 1973 – 1980

I have recently discovered that 1973 through 1980 is my favorite era of Neil Young’s music.  It includes my favorite Album, On The Beach.  It was a dark period for Neil but it is filled with broken hearted gems.  I have outlined the releases from this period below.  Please note what I deem to be the ESSENTIAL releases.

neil_young_time_fades_away-150x150 1973 – Neil Young – Time Fades Away: A strikingly noncommercial followup to 1972s hugely successful release Harvest.  An album of new material recorded entirely live in concert.  Neil had to fire guitarist Danny Whitten before the tour started and he overdosed and died shortly after.  What you get is an extremely raw recording of some of Young’s most emotional songs drunkenly delivered on this album that is still unreleased on CD.  ESSENTIAL
neil_young_on_the_beach-150x150 1974 – Neil Young – On The Beach: Another mid 70s gem that didn’t see a proper CD release until 2003.  Young is joined on this revelatory set of music by Cajun Countryman Rusty Kershaw.  The album has a great vibe all the way through and is probably one of Young’s most consistent recordings.  ESSENTIAL
neil_young_tonight_the_night-150x150 1975 – Neil Young – Tonight’s The Night: Originally recorded in 1973 but not released by Young until 75.  A legendary release known for its loose off kilter cuts.  Book ended by the title track, “Tonight’s the night”, an interesting reaction to loosing both Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry to drugs.  ESSENTIAL
neil_young_zuma-150x150 1975 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Zuma: The debut of new rhythm guitarist Frank Sampedro. Young and the Horse return to form along with his producer David Briggs.  ESSENTIAL
stills_young_band_long_may_you_run-150x150 1976 – The Stills Young Band – Long May You Run: Young reunited with his old band mate from Buffalo Springfield on this release.  Really the only song that came from these sessions that is worth a damn is the title track by Neil. 
neil_young_american_stars_bars-150x150 1977 – Neil Young – American Stars ‘N Bars: A fairly mediocre collection of songs thrown together that includes one of my favorite tunes “Like A Hurricane”. 
neil_young_comes_a_time-150x150 1978 – Neil Young – Comes A Time: Young’s most accessible music since the release of Harvest in 1972.  Put together from acoustic demos with the band overdubbed in.  Some really great songs that wasn’t released on CD until 1988.  ESSENTIAL
neil_young_rust_never_sleeps-150x150 1979 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps: Some regard this as Young’s last great album until his resurgence in the early 90s.  Another album book ended by a great song, this time the Rock N’ Roll epic “My My, Hey Hey…” / “Hey Hey, My My…”.  Some of the other tunes on the album would be his hardest edged songs so far.  ESSENTIAL
neil_young_hawks_doves-150x150 1980 – Neil Young – Hawks & Doves: Another fairly mediocre mix of tracks which include a few great stand outs including the experimental “Lost In Space”. 
Live releases from this era:
neil_young_live_rust-150x150 1979 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Live Rust: A great live album including most of the tunes from Rust Never Sleeps along with great renditions of some of Young’s classic tunes.  ESSENTIAL

There are also two albums during this period that Young had put together and sadly decided not to release.  They are known by the titles Homegrown and Chrome Dreams (Young released Chrome Dreams II in 2007 as somewhat of an inside joke).  They both featured the song that were scattered throughout his output in the 70s but some tracks have still not seen release.  If you really search you may be able to find fan re-sequenced releases of Chrome Dreams put together by what songs were said to be included.

Here is a playlist I have put together featuring my favorites from this era.  I tried to stay away from the most well known tunes.  If you can not see the playlist below, please follow this link.

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