VAN MORRISON

Rather than introduce a bevy of unearthed material or special-features, The Authorized Bang Collection retells a chapter of Van Morrison’s career in a reframed light using existing material. Famously, Morrison did not approve of 1967’s Blowin’ Your Mind, nor the collection of outtakes and half-serious sessions that followed it. The time preceding 1968’s groundbreaking Astral Weeks has come to be seen as a false start in Morrison’s solo career, and the artistic shift post-Bang as a kind of unshackling.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the 3-CD collection comes in the form of Morrison’s own essay, which starts off the collection’s booklet. In it, Bang founder Bert Berns decision to release Blowin’ Your Mind is recalled of thusly:

“I thought the recordings were going to be issued as four singles, at least that’s what I was told. But after the first single, ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, hit Top 10 that summer, Bang issued the eight songs as an album… At the time, the whole ‘concept album’ was coming in and singles were going out. The whole concept of an album completely changed then… If I had thought it was an album, I would have approached it a whole different way.”

Berns is painted after that as a man consumed with his work, too busy for Van but also serving as an early kindred spirit, with Morrison complimenting Berns’ songwriting throughout the essay.  Morrison later states that the second set of sessions with Bang were limp because of the Berns-picked musicians inability to “gel” with what Van was bringing to the table.

The third disc of the set, the aptly titled “Contractual Obligation Session,” is wholly uninspired, and showcases an angry, cheeky and hurried Morrison. But where there are more than a dozen tracks that feel like salvos, a ditty like “You Say France And I Whistle” shows that Morrison was at least pulling from some creative place while he clanged away on an acoustic guitar, desperate to get out of the room.

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Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 483: Jean-Michel Bernard – Générique Stéphane ++ Pierre Cavalli – Un Soir Chez Norris ++ Françoise Hardy – Je N’Attends Plus Personne ++ The New Creation – Countdown To Revolution (excerpt) ++ Bob Desper – The World Is Crying For Love ++ Re-Creation – Music ++ John Scoggins – For You ++ Wilco – More ++ Caetano Veloso – You Don’t Know Me ++ Lee Jung Hwa – I Don’t Like ++ Willie Wright – Nantucket Island ++ Les 5 Gentlemen – LSD 25 Ou Les Metamorphoses De Margaret Steinway ++ Aberdeen – Freedom (Hourya) ++ Jacques Dutronc – Je Suis Content ++ The Walkmen – Canadian Girl ++ Dara Puspita – To Love Somebody ++ Robert Lester Folsom – Written In Your Hair ++ Los Freddys – It’s Only Love ++ Richard Swift – The Bully ++ The Gories – Casting My Spell ++ Mel Brown – Eighteen Pounds Of Unclean Chitlins ++ Los Sleepers – Zombi ++ Thee Milkshakes – Gringles And Groyles ++ Todd Rundgren – International Feel  ++ Willie Loco Alexander – Gin ++ Ultimate Painting – Kodiak ++ Jack Cooper – Sandgrown Pt. 2 ++ Jonathan Richman – That Summer Feeling ++ Woods – Sun City Creeps ++ Grant Union High School – Ain’t No Sunshine ++ Mulatu Astatke – Mulatu ++ Balek – Placebo ++ Can – Sunday Jam ++ Abstract Truth – Moving Away ++ Sroeng Santi – Dub Fai Kui Gun ++ Stomu Yamashta & East Wind – Rain Race ++ Blur – Out of Time

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

One of our favorite albums of the year, the self-titled Joan Shelley is not only the artist’s best record to date, but her most necessary. High praise considering the impact of her previous work. Despite appearances, Shelley’s selections for this installment of the Lagniappe Sessions are not entirely disparate. The Sinatra cover is culled from the much-obsessed over Watertown lp from 1970; an album penned by lyricist Jake Holmes, who said of the track “I guess it’s that you can’t regret where you are even if life takes you someplace where you don’t want to be.” A sentiment not unfamiliar to the Leonard Cohen oeuvre, Shelley’s cover of Cohen’s “Night Comes On” is aided on vocals by fellow Louisvillian Will Oldham — a tribute the two had previously worked up in a live setting late last year.

Shelley on her selections, in her own words, below . . .

Joan Shelley :: I Would Be In Love (Anyway) (Frank Sinatra)

I have always had a sweet-spot for Frank Sinatra. This song is from the album Watertown. It’s a concept album that totally flopped, and I guess he never tried anything like it again. But it’s the one studio album of his that I am in love with as a whole. The story is from the perspective of a man whose wife has left him, and the particulars are vague. It is devastatingly sad (and I say that with affection). But there are also these little lifts throughout, glimpses of compassion and resilience. This song in particular shimmers with that kind of farther-seeing love.

Joan Shelley :: Night Comes On (Leonard Cohen) ** w/ Will Oldham

There’s a live performance in which Leonard Cohen introduces this song by saying “this is a song about everything.” Many of his songs feel that way. Various Positions is my favorite album, just based on the writing. The arrangements are kinda wacky, and initially it didn’t appeal to me. But I was house-painting one time and I put this on again in headphones. I ended up painting long into the night, listening over and over and over. It could have partially been the paint fumes. But this song is transfixing.

sam-amidon-the-following-mountain-450Sam Amidon possesses the traits of an archetypal American songster: fiddle and banjo mastery, as well as a lifetime spent among his repertoire of deeply rooted folksongs. His interpretations of traditional tunes and ballads are often expansive reworks that set his singular voice and deft accompaniment amidst a frontier of harmonically rich orchestrations or a chatter of burbling jazz. He radiates a wondrous enthusiasm like John Hartford, and channels the tuneful grit of Bruce Molsky. Just as with those charismatic song-collector/performers before him, Amidon’s most compelling and definitive instrument is his singing. His unmistakable voice makes a bald coo, delivered with composure, sans vibrato. It’s akin to the high and lonesome sound, but with none of that idiom’s aloof distance. Amidon sounds disarmingly present.  That quality is, perhaps, at the core of his art: the ability to transform something timeless into something present, to alchemize a well-worn melody into a beautiful, mysterious sound.

This idea extends to the formation of his personal canon. His repertoire of “folk” music is remarkable in that it extends to contemporary pop songs and can move convincingly from the traditional “Short Life of Trouble” to Tim McGraw’s “My Old Friend” to R. Kelly’s “Relief.” Any distinction of authenticity between a communal folk song and a pop star’s hit is eclipsed by Amidon’s ability to pluck the essential sentiment and beauty out of his selection and send it billowing into the air, like making a wish with dandelion.

The Following Mountain marks a departure for Amidon, however. It is his first record to focus on original material rather than interpretations of folk songs. Traditional songs had been the peaks from which Amidon surveyed the aesthetic expanse of his musical world. The Following Mountain is a new summit. It was largely improvised, the songs culled from an epic jam session with an eclectic cohort of players: free-jazz legend Milford Graves, percussionist Juma Sultan, saxophonist Sam Gendel, as well as Amidon’s most frequent collaborator and mainstay of the NY improv scene, Shazad Ismaily.

In line with the folk ethos, Amidon has always been keenly collaborative. Most notably, the composer Nico Muhly has conjured ebullient arrangements for many Amidon renditions. On his most recent studio album, Lily-O, Amidon worked with the guitarist Bill Frisell, the gentlest, prettiest player in the often-fiery free-jazz set. Both collaborations elicited a profound, harmonically complex Americana in the vein of Copland’s mythic rodeo. The old-time tunes–these well known traditional forms–are jumping off points for Amidon and his pals, but also sturdy, well-worn vessels to be filled with (new) contemporary meaning. This is important cultural work! It allows the artist to speak with and build upon a shared song that is transpersonal and transhistorical. But where Amidon’s articulations of folk songs come alive are in his inspired nuance: a cracking warble in his voice, a slippery trill of his fiddle, a candid remark in the studio that sticks to the record. It is this ephemeral, improvisational sinew, however, makes up the kernel of The Following Mountain. Amidon bypasses known forms (folk song/pop song) to conjure an “original” form through improvisation: the closest act to pure creation, to our mystical urge, to our divinity… It’s a bit contradictory, but so is the nature of human existence.

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Between 1969 and 1971, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg took the poems of William Blake and set them to music – with musicians as diverse as Don Cherry, Elvin Jones, and Arthur Russell – Ginsberg recorded (with himself on lead vocals) dozens of these songs, some of which leaked out via an album on MGM in 1970 (making him label mates with the Velvet Underground). However, none of them have been properly issued on CD until now – and many have never been released in any form.

On behalf of the Ginsberg Estate, Omnivore Recordings releases a 2-CD set titled The Complete Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake, Tuned by Allen Ginsberg on June 23.

The Ginsberg Estate has supplied Aquarium Drunkard with an exclusive animated video of one of the songs – which is a feast for the eyes and ears – plus an excerpt of reissue producer Pat Thomas‘ liner notes to give you a taste of the wealth of influence. Everyone from Van Morrison to the Beatles to Jimmy Page was a fan of Ginsberg!

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In his 2012 special New in Town, comedian John Mulaney begins a joke with the premise, “I was once on the phone with Blockbuster Video,” noting how “old-fashioned” that sentence sounds. “‘I was on the phone with Blockbuster Video’ — that’s like when your grandma would be like, ‘We’d all go play jacks down at the soda fountain,’ you’re like, ‘No one knows what you’re talking about, you idiot!'”

Speaking over the phone from his home in New York, Mulaney doesn’t balk at the term “anachronistic” when it comes to describing his sensibilities.

“I tend to like things that are a tick off the relevant chart,” he says. “Not by design — it just happens that way.”

Mulaney infuses his work with a love for less than current pop culture. Mulaney, his Fox sitcom, which ran for one season before being canceled, directly channeled the multi-camera format of Seinfeld and countless ’70s and ’80s programs. With his Broadway show Oh, Hello, Mulaney and fellow comedian Nick Kroll inhabit the roles of George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon, two Upper West Side guys straight out of a Woody Allen movie, who are as obsessed with Allan Alda and Philip Roth as they are generally unpleasant and disgusting. Whether writing for IFC’s Documentary Now! or performing stand-up, Mulaney draws on his often vintage interests to create hilarious and slightly askew comedy.

“What’s fun about that is that those things can inform my comedy and hopefully it doesn’t sound like something you just heard yesterday,” Mulaney says.

Recently, Mulaney took some time out away from his sold-out Kid Gorgeous stand-up tour to talk with Aquarium Drunkard. We discussed Oh, Hello, which will be available to stream on Netflix June 13, and his previous special, The Comeback Kid, available on compact disc and vinyl via Drag City Records June 16, explored his love of Steely Dan, and dug into his favorite music performances from his time writing for Saturday Night Live. Enjoy.

Aquarium Drunkard: I get the sense that you are a Steely Dan fan.

John Mulaney: I’m a huge Steely Dan fan.

AD: The band seems to come up a lot in your work, especially in regards to your Oh, Hello character. How did you get into Steely Dan?

John Mulaney: I got into them my senior year of college. In 2002, my roommate Kevin, who I lived with in college and then for five years in Brooklyn, we were driving to take a Sears family portrait. He and I and my other roommates were going to get a family portrait done, so we were driving there from D.C. to Virginia, and he put on Pretzel Logic, which he had just bought on CD. I heard “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” and was like, “Oh I’ve heard this song before. This is really good. Who is this?” He said, “It’s Steely Dan. ” I always thought of them as like the Doobie Brothers; I lumped them in with a lot of other groups.

That entire fall, we listened to that album. We had a lot of parties at our house and if we kind of wanted to put up a flag saying, “If you’re into this, you can stay,” we’d put on “Pretzel Logic,” the song. At some point in the night we’d get a little surly and it’d be like, “You all like our house, huh? Well do you like ‘Pretzel Logic?’ Because if you don’t you can leave, but if you like it we’re very happy to have you stay.” It was like, “How much of a buzzed loser do you want to be with us?” Then we got into Aja. It was really in steps. I remember that winter Kevin being like, “You have to hear ‘Time Out of Mind’ from Gaucho.” And that was like, “Whoa, this is nearly computerized jazz fusion. This is really getting into a type of music that one part of me wants to make fun of, but the other part of me loves so much.” So it’s always been very serious and totally kidding. But it’s very serious — I really love Steely Dan, but I also recognize that it’s synthy, poppy jazz fusion, and that’s very funny. I enjoy when people aren’t that into Steely Dan. I enjoy that almost as much as I enjoy talking to other Steely Dan fans.

AD: I saw Dead & Co. last night, and I think I have a similar feeling, in that I get why some people are not into this. But I genuinely loved it.

John Mulaney: The thing about Steely Dan, and also the Dead, and I would say Phish — we’re getting into a very controversial topic — is that they are funny. Those people like comedy a lot. Their lyrics are funny. They know they are funny and know what’s funny about their “lexical lunacies,” as Steely Dan would say. It’s kind of like being mad at a joke if you’re really mad at the music. At the same time, it’s not a joke and I know all three of those groups take it super-seriously.

2016 saw the return of filmmaker Jim Jarmusch on two separate fronts with the release of Patterson and his Stooges documentary, Gimme Danger. The latter is now on Netflix, so go ahead and queue it up.

In the meantime: if you haven’t caught the above Iggy Pop curio before, carve out fifteen minutes and do so. In short, having moved to NYC several years prior, a documentary film crew follows Iggy around his east village neighborhood just prior to the massive transformation the area would soon undergo once Giuliani took the reigns as mayor.

We have several copies of the Gimme Danger soundtrack (vinyl + the expanded CD version) and related goodies for a few readers. To enter, leave a comment with a link to your favorite Iggy/Stooges youtube ephemera. Winners contacted later this week via email.