Friday, March 30, 2007

Prime design / time design

It has taken me until now to finally practice my refreshed web design skills in earnest. I started taking the web designer course at AcademyX in late January, so it's about time!

And the time in this case was the Cesar Chavez holiday, which makes for a welcome early start to the weekend. It also makes up for not having a day off on Columbus Day.

I started this morning on messing with the design for the Rasputin Manifesto site for my own amusement, and had run into some frustration with linking to the style sheet I was trying to create. As Noon approached, I put my work down and went for a swim.

It took until well after dinner for me to finally sit back down and get to it -- there were plenty of distractions to engage me, such as setting up the new external hard drive I bought, transferring and deleting files, laundry, etc. Anything to put off linking this stupid style sheet! Well, once I finally got it linked and got around to adding some IDs, I realized what one of my other problems was earlier in the day -- I was adding the "#" symbol to my div IDs, which explained why none of the formatting was sticking. The "#" symbol (or as our Dreamweaver instructor enjoyed calling it, the "octathorp") belonged on the ID in the style sheet, not the div ID. Got it.

After that I was jammin', until padding in one of my divs started creating more headaches. It was a good run though. It just took the right music to get me going. And the music that made it happen was...

Miles Davis' Get Up With It.

I should have known. Miles' music from the '70s has inspired me in the past. Witness the craziness that my pastels created while listening to Miles' Dark Magus live album during my sophomore year of college:

There's just something in the music, some sort of energy, that puts me in a place to create. It must be Miles himself, for he had the same effect on the musicians who played with him. This is something I know, yet consistently forget.

I cannot forget anymore!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Review: Danny Gatton "Redneck Jazz Explosion"

Sometime last fall, I received my first unsolicited promos from the fine folks at the Vermont-based Big Mo Records. The prospect of hearing some smokin’ jazz guitar licks from Danny Gatton was an exciting one for me, in part because of some crossed wires in my brain.

“Danny Gatton playing jazz?” I thought. This I had to hear!

Can I be forgiven for getting Danny’s name confused with ‘80s country star Larry Gatlin?

No, to my knowledge, Larry Gatlin has never played jazz and is still very much alive (Gatton committed suicide in 1994, leaving the world as an unsung guitar hero). But apparently the name Danny Gatton sounded country enough to me that I was prepared to hear those overtones peeping through the two volumes of live recordings entitled Redneck Jazz Explosion that feature Danny leading a super tight quartet through some very autumnal sounding instrumental jazz.

Danny’s Redneck Jazz Explosion band recorded these live sides at the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C. back in 1978 with Danny playing some hot guitar, and an equally stunning Buddy Emmons on pedal steel guitar. The pedal steel is what lends the music its deepest shades of country, even as funk, pop, and straight-ahead jazz all crash together into a fiery mix of original improvisational music. Rounding out the rhythm section were Steve Wolf on bass, and Scott Taylor on drums.

The program of selections is a mixed bag, ranging from compositions by jazz royalty such as Horace Silver (“Opus De Funk” on Volume One, “Song For My Father” and “Filthy McNasty” on Volume Two) and Sonny Rollins (“Sonnymoon For Two” on Volume Two), to a soul jazz number by Jack McDuff (“Rock Candy” appears on both volumes), and recastings of pop tunes by Leonard Cohen (“Famous Blue Raincoat” on Volume One) and Bobbie Gentry (“Ode To Bille Joe” on Volume Two). Even a Rimsky-Korsakov composition, “Song Of India,” is worked into the program – with a disco beat! It’s actually quite infectious, and is the tune that has stuck with me the most over the course of several listens to the entire contents of both discs.

Throughout the program, various different effects are heard decorating the sound of Danny’s guitar, courtesy of an invention he plugged into called a “Magic Dingus Box.” The effect most often recalled is that of the rotating Leslie speaker most often heard attached to electric organs, hence the Jack McDuff covers. The textures vary throughout, and Danny used them all quite well.

I find it hard to really do these recordings justice with my own words, especially in the face of Brawner Smoot’s excellent, extensive liner notes.

And besides, a video clip is worth far more than any mere words I could ever dish out on this guy:

Is your jaw dropping yet?

Note, if you’re so inclined to snatch these discs up, Big Mo Records is the exclusive vendor for both volumes of Redneck Jazz Explosion.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Capitol loses McCartney... now what?

When Billboard and several other news outlets reported that Paul McCartney is the first artist signed to Starbucks' Hear Music label, the fact that he was leaving Capitol was downplayed. Fox News actually led their story from the angle of Capitol losing one of their longest residents, for nearly 43 years, which is the more interesting story to me. Even when he moved to Columbia Records from 1979 to 1985, his recordings were still handled by EMI labels outside of the U.S. and Canada. Which begs the question: is this a worldwide deal or what?

My hope is that Hear Music will do a better job than Capitol of treating McCartney's back catalog with respect. The international reissues of his solo and Wings albums that appeared in the early '90s never did see a proper U.S. release. Capitol simply let the old versions remain in print, even as imports trickled into stores at reasonable prices. Even now, you could probably walk into a Virgin Megastore or an FYE and see multiple versions of the same McCartney album available for sale, if you're lucky enough to find anything other than McCartney, Band On The Run, a hits collection and his most recent album.

As for whether Paul will see increased sales from the deal, caustic music industry legend Bob Lefsetz doesn't seem to think so. Or, as he puts it with typical bluntness, "who cares?" I'm a little puzzled as to why Lefsetz speaks of McCartney not being able to get on top 40 radio, or not being able to sell a million records and the Starbucks deal not being able to change that. Maybe he didn't see the report in This Is London that revealed a shrewd business reason for the deal, the same reason why McCartney is apparently putting off doing another tour for a while -- he is trying to protect his assets from his soon-to-be ex-wife!

Paul McCartney has a built-in audience, and no matter what entity he asks to promote and distribute his music, he will generate income. He has nothing to worry about when it comes to money. And though some may want to argue with me, I don't think he has anything to worry about in the area of artistry either. Little has changed in the past 8 years for McCartney's artistic statements and record sales. Starbucks will help him continue to do what he wants to do and hopefully keep more cash for himself, which is fine by me.

Yet, beyond the business ins and outs, being able to hear a new McCartney album only 2 years after the last one is, to me, the most exciting news of all!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Slayer

Speaking of Slayer... this past Tuesday, March 20, the most excellent jefitoblog posted The Complete Idiot's Guide to Slayer as part of its ongoing Tuesday 'Idiot's Guide' series. This is my second contribution to jefitoblog, the first being a three-part guide to the band Chicago that appeared last August. Head on over and check it out!

An introduction, part 2

So here's the lowdown on FrontParlourblog:

Most of the posts you will read here will likely revolve around music in some form or another. And when I say music, I mean that in a very broad sense. I enjoy listening to, reading about and writing about everything from the Beatles and Bob Dylan to Prince to Ornette Coleman and Miles Davis and Juliana Hatfield and Slayer... and the list goes on.

I also enjoy playing guitar, and as I am due to start playing in a band workshop next month, I may be posting about those goings on as well.

I am taking a course in web design at AcademyX in San Francisco, and when I start really practicing the skills I am learning in earnest, I may be posting about that here. The site I mentioned in the previous post, the Front Parlour, will receive a makeover in due time to become part of my portfolio.

Whenever I have a piece of writing published somewhere, I will post about that here. Some outlets that have carried my writing include Performer Magazine, the Rasputin Manifesto, the Harbus, Ear Candy, jefitoblog, and even

And then there's the miscellaneous stuff... comments on current events, other blogs, all that good stuff... will go here.

As you see in my profile description, I am currently working as an office manager. How exactly I manage to make it work when my brain is going in so many other directions, I can't quite say. My desk is often a mess, and my brain feels that way a lot of the time too. Yet somehow it all comes together. And it must, for this job must feed my passions, as they cannot yet pay their own way. And so it goes for, I presume, at least a million or three other like-minded individuals out there. Raise your hands in solidarity!

So stick around, and think of this place as your own little front parlour, where you can kick back and relax while reading and tuning out. It's good to have you here!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

An introduction

Welcome, one and all, to my humble little electronic writing pad! Actually, I do have others, over at myspace and, but this, this feels more like home.

My time is constantly crunched, and as it slips away, somehow more seems to get done than when I have all the time in the world to goof off. And so I'm off without having posted much more than a sneeze. When I return, I will tell more about what I do, and point you in the direction of some exciting reading material. "Oh, that could be anything!" Yes, vague, I know. But this is how we think when we're thinking about brushing our teeth while knowing that our ride is bound to leave us behind if we give too much away too soon.

To the streets!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

So long, Brad Delp

I almost always do a little something to commemorate the musicians I admire when they die, and I finally got around to doing just that for Brad Delp.

I had this gut feeling that his death might have been a suicide. I found out when I was on the phone with my mother. She had the TV on, and she asked me, "how do I know the name Brad Delp?" I told her that he is the lead singer of the group Boston, and that he also sang in that Beatles tribute band called Beatle Juice who played an opening set in the movie theatre where we had seen the re-release of "A Hard Day's Night" back in, oh, I don't know... '99 maybe? Can't remember, too lazy to look it up. Anyway, she then remembered and said, "he was found dead in his apartment!"

It was a shock, being that he was so young -- the same age as my mother, only 55 years old. He was still active with both Beatle Juice and Boston. And who could fault that soaring voice of his? There have been other singers in Boston besides Brad, most notably Fran Cosmo, who came close to mimicking Brad but never quite made it. But Brad will always be the voice of Boston.

I remember being struck at how much he held back his distinctive wail when singing Beatles songs with Beatle Juice. The band didn't dress like the Beatles, or attempt to get the accents just right. They just played the music straight, and Brad sang to the songs, rather than injecting himself into the music. It was a breath of fresh air hearing such a personal yet respectful take on the music of the Beatles, and I wish I could have heard more than just that one short set.

I never did see a live Boston concert, due to Tom Scholz canceling the tour I had planned on checking out back when I was still in high school. Had to have been '94 or '95, after Walk On was released. It was to be a joint tour with Cheap Trick, and even though Brad didn't sing on the Walk On album, he was to be singing alongside Fran Cosmo on the tour, which to me was a very exciting prospect. Brad, Fran, Tom and Cheap Trick all in the same night! It was not to be. I remember the official explanation being that Tom had broken his hand, so since he couldn't play guitar with a broken hand, the tour was canceled. I'm pretty sure there was another explanation that was more truthful (again, too lazy to look it up -- help please?).

Anyway, last night I finally got around to spinning the first two Boston LPs, and maybe later I'll end the 'mourning period' with Third Stage. Brad had a couple of great tunes he wrote that appeared with Scholz's songs on those first two albums -- "Let Me Take You Home Tonight" on the first album, and "Used To Bad News" on Don't Look Back. Dig those out and give 'em a listen. Also, do yourself a favor and seek out Barry Goudreau's self-titled solo album, which has a hilarious tune called "Mean Woman Blues," in which Brad sings of being abused by a paranoid psycho bitch who believes her man is messing around when all he's doing is innocently walkin' around to get some air. She beats him senseless with tables and chairs, as well as her bare hands, saying, "in this house, female brutality has become a reality!" Ouch!

So long, Brad, and thanks for the music.

(NOTE: Reposted from my old myspace blog)