Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Return of the King" by Gillian G. Gaar

Return of the King: Elvis Presley's Great Comeback Return of the King: Elvis Presley's Great Comeback by Gillian G. Gaar

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Elvis Presley = sadness. It is truly the most depressing story of an icon music legend. On one level one would think Elvis was just dumb, but also he was a man who had the moment and the time (1950's) and he was sort of the force that got us over to the 1960's. The concept of Elvis is genius, but the life that is Elvis is not genius, but rather pathetic or someone caught is a strange depressive state of mind and body.

"Return of the King" is a well written researched book that focuses on Elvis' comeback years that quickly turned into a march to death. The great bio on Elvis is the two volume set by Peter Guralnick, and all others are just a shadow to that particular biography. Saying that, this is a very good book, but it has been said before, so there is really nothing new regarding Elvis and his world.

But for sure, anything on Elvis, one has to talk about Memphis and its culture. The Southern (gothic) culture basically made Elvis, and you can sort of see his world via the images of the great Southern photographer William Egglestion. Roughly both men are in the same generation, but it is interesting to see how outside influences such as the Southern family and settings can make a person tick. The big picture of Elvis is not his sad life, but how is life is part of a bigger puzzle that is the 20th Century South.

Elvis is fascinating in so many ways. A man who wore pink pants and eye make-up in his teenage years, and who adopted black culture as well as country music to make a hybrid sound - or a Frankenstein monster in a sense. Gillian Gaar is good with the facts, but there is no real analysis with those facts. She interviews all the key players but none can penetrate the Elvis wall. And I think even Elvis couldn't penetrate that wall.

So yeah if you are a Elvis fanatic this is a good book. But it has all been said in the Guralnick bio - but then again, like a car accident repeated in front of your eyes again and again, its hard to look the other way.

Also I want to note that the publisher Jaw Bone is fantastic. They don't do poorly designed books, and "Return of the King" is a beautiful production. Great cover, thick pages, nice photos - the whole package is great.

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Dandies in Revolt

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mick Jagger - Umano non Umano - 1969

The importance of the classic Mick Jagger.

Boris Vian Related Albums That I listened to Today

A album that I believed was put out in 2008 by Andy Chango "Boris Vian." I know very little of this music artist, except that he is from Buenos Aires and he has this record, which is really good. The cover itself is an A+. Pianococktail from "Foam of the Daze" (L'ecume des jours). Chango sings Vian songs in Spanish (at least I think it is) and it has a nice updated yet respectful stance towards the material. Highly recommended.

As Paris was burning to the beat of May 1968, Les Charlots put out an album of Vian songs called "Les Charlots chantent Boris Vian." Basically a comedy group in the line of maybe a French version of the Goons, or at the very least Monty Python. Now Vian is a funny guy, so its interesting that this group of comedians pretty much (music wise) do straight ahead versions of Vian's music. They stay pretty true to Vian's sense of fun. A curious album and I imagine kind of rare.

A cool album. Basically a mix of Vian's poetry and excerpts from his novel and then his songs. The album was recorded in 1964, and the singer Beatrice Moulin is really good. Very showbiz, and one wonders if this was a stage show of some sort. I can see it work as a theater piece. Here are the original album cover

And here's the back cover:

And for the strange, here's a prog-rock album done in the 70's that uses "Foam of the Daze" (L'ecume des jours) as a subject matter.

I know nothing of this band called Memoriance. By all sane standards I loathe prog music. But since they did a whole album based on "Foam of the Daze" I am ok with it. My critical stance weakens in the name of Vian's fans. Here's a taste of the album via YouTube:

Actually the album is pretty cool. Get it!




I just got the album by Andy Chango called "Boris Vian." It's good!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Manet and the Object of Painting Manet and the Object of Painting by Michel Foucault

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Manet, to me, is sort of like wallpaper. I noticed it for a second and then moved on to the other room. But since reading this beautifully designed slim book by Michel Foucault, I now see him in a new light.

This is actually a lecture that Foucault did on Manet sometime in the early 1070's. Compared to his other writings, this is very much a book you can read on a good bus ride from Downtown L.A. to the beach. The thing I like about it is that Foucault is not an art reviewer or someone from that world. He's looking at the artwork from a totally different angle, which of course makes it an unique study on an artist's work.

Foucault focuses on maybe 10 paintings by Monet and comments on the space and lighting in the paintings. Reading the text I start noticing rather eccentric aspects of Monet's work that I didn't observed in the first place.

Foucault's observations are very focused, but done in a way where the reader or perhaps if you were in the audience at the time, start making your own connections to the work on hand. For me this makes excellent art criticism.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sigmar Polke's "Works on Paper, 1963-1974"

Sigmar Polke: Works on Paper Sigmar Polke: Works on Paper by Margit Rowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A book much admired at the store I work at, but then like everything else it disappeared. I finally found a copy at a new used (and great) bookstore "Alias" in Glendale. Sigmar Polke is one of my favorite artists, and I think its the cartoon aspect of his work that gets me. The college affect via ballpoint pen and water colors is a good combination. He's a master.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Favorite Music That I have Found on the Internet Part Two

A beautiful recording that is very much silk sheets on a clean bed. George Clooney's aunt, Rosemary Clooney is perfectly matched up with Duke and his Orchestra. The classic, the iconic, and it has a nice 2:30 am in the morning feeling. i like big band music that sounds small and constricted. More intense and just brings out the beauty of the songs and performance. "Mood Indigo" is the stand out here.

Everyone who knows me knows that I have a life-long love for Joe Meek and his recordings. One of his "victims' or stars is of course the great Screaming Lord Sutch. For whatever reason its hard to find an album of his early works with Meek, but I think I found it via the album "Story." Sutch is the proto-type to Alice Cooper and all that 'schock and attack' aspect of rock n' roll. But with Meek's sound it just becomes a highly eccentric approach to rock n' roll. And its perfect. Its beautiful.

I know that Small Faces/Humble Pie great Steve Marriott had a teenage career on the London West End stage, but I think this may be his first solo recording - even before the Small Faces. I don't have that much information on these recordings, but its very Mod (with a capital M) R n B music. Not far off from the early Small Faces. It's a four song ep, and the highlight is his version of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me." Track it down its a great record.

Great interview with Marriott.

Steve Marriott's "Money Money" which is one of the four songs on this particular EP.

Friday, May 14, 2010

William Eggleston's "Stranded in Canton"

Stranded in Canton Stranded in Canton by William Eggleston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Remarkable book and the video (DVD) that comes with the book is a masterpiece. A typical night out with Southern Goth beauty William Eggleston and his fellow friends and family in Memphis. Eggleston is more known for his brilliant use of color, but this vintage video shot in black and white is sort of like peeping under the blankets. Kind of horrifying yet beautiful at the same time. Visions of the blues and Elvis lurks in the very soul of Memphis, and Eggleston is an artist who can capture all that, and just let it dream in front of us. Essential book and DVD. Get it before it disappears in Collector's bookshelves and under lock and key.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Memphis blues

Big Star footage by Chris Bell and Andy Hummel.

Alex Chilton and Dan Penn Photograph by William Eggleston

Photo by William Eggleston

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Callie Angell

I just read in the New York Times about the passing of Callie Angell. Shocking news. She was the curator of the Andy Warhol Film Project at the Whitney Museum. I never met her, but we have exchanged e-mails in the past so many years. The avant-garde needs its supporters and writers. Her book "Andy Warhol Screen Tests: The Films of Andy Warhol Raisonne" is pretty much a must for anyone who has an interest in film or Warhol mystique and art.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Review of Albert Cossery's "A Splendid Conspiracy"

A Splendid Conspiracy A Splendid Conspiracy by Albert Cossery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Anyone who is a friend of Boris Vian is a friend of mine. And Albert Cossery is very close to the aesthetic quality of the Prince of St. Germain-des-Prés. This is the first novel I have read by Cossery, and because of it I am now a loyal follower of this magnificent Egyptian born, but hardcore Parisian writer.

"A Splendid Conspiracy" (Un Complot de Saltimbanques) is a novel about three young friends among other citizens of a small town in Egypt. One is a police informer, the other a European traveler who tasted the good life, and the third is basically a nihilist punk who is über-smart.

Through these three characters, we see small town conservative life and its under-current of sexual adventure, decadence, and possible series of murder. But all of this serves in the background and its interesting how Cossery introduces each character and how they become part of the narrative. Life is a remarkable adventure and this book reads as a map to appreciate your location as well as how things are connected by the dots, but those dots can lead you to something strange, scary, weird, or

The book is translated by Alyson Waters and the language flows easily. A classic. And of course it is published by New Directions. His other novel "The Jokers" will be published by NYRB. So he's in good company.

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My Favorite Music That I have Found on the Internet Part One

What is fascinating to me are music blogs. These are all curated sites with particular albums or songs on them. I think people are missing the point about getting music for free or not - the bigger picture is people's taste and how they expose that specific taste. Part of the great fun is researching this by yourself and finding new discoveries. Due to the newish technology I have discovered a lot of new music. For instance:

Patrick Vian's "Bruits et Temps Analogues"

Boris Vian's son was (still is?) a prog rock figure in Paris 1970's. This is a very difficult album to find. I found it once in Tokyo but the price was way too much for me. It's an album that doesn't have that great critical response, but on the other hand it is a work of great interest. One he's the son of Boris. Two, it is an album that was important when it came out. People who are interested in Electronica will find it interesting. Personally I like it. It's a very warm album.

Patrick Vian (back cover of the album)

Pierre Schaeffer's "Parole et Musique"

In two words: Musique Concrete. Masterpiece album. Found sounds, dialogues, snips of melody, coughing, explosions, jets going off - its basically an aural portrait of the 20th Century.

Pierre Schaeffer

Rolling Stones' "Each and Every Day of the Year"

This song makes me tearful. The tragedy of it all. Andrew Loog Oldham's brilliant production and the arrangement are just top notch. It doesn't get better then this. Listen to the song down below.

Part Two later...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My New Literary Hero Albert Cossery

At the moment I am reading a fantastic novel "A Splendid Conspiracy" by Egyptian born, but lived in Paris Albert Cossery. Any artist/writer who looks down on work is ok with me. Nevertheless this novel is really wonderful to the max. All the characters are really interesting, but they also grow out of the pages into something else. And it's really a page-turner of a book. Nicely translated from French by Alyson Waters.

New York Review of Books, which is a fantastic press by the way, is putting out another novel by Cossery called "The Jokers." I can't wait!

A longer review will come shortly here.

A Rare Recording by Lou Christie

One of my favorite songs from my teen years. Many thanks to Tigarshare on Dennis Cooper's blog for reminding me the greatness of pop.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Graham Robb's "Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris"

Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Paris, without a doubt, is never boring. And this book focuses on various 'moments' in the city's moody history. Graham Robb's book is heavy curated in the sense that he tells various narratives dealing with Paris at a point of crisis of some point.

Each chapter focuses on a particular narrative, and the one's that work for me is the chapter on Napoleon flirting with a whore at the Museum, the Occupation seen through a Parisian child's eye which is terrifying and horrible at the same time, and the one's that have to deal with the criminal element.

The chapter that rub me the wrong way is the one on the great Greco and Miles Davis. He wrote it as a film script and its too cute for the tone of the book. Yet, for me, it's a fascinating subject matter how Greco matched up with Miles - and of course anything dealing with Boris Vian's world is a must for me.

But overall this is a very enjoyable overall history of Paris. It's not the best, but it's really good.

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