Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dusty Springfield "Stay Awhile - I Only Want To Be With You" Mono Vinyl

"Stay Awhile/I Only Want To Be With You" is such a great title, even though it is really two separate songs - but Philips Records in their wisdom put the titles together because both were hits by Dusty Springfield.   So as I mentioned, the title works for me as a Burroughs/Tzara cut-up.  But once you get inside the album, it's girl-pop mania.

Mono really suits this album, because its a big production and works when you are in front of the speaker(s) and it hits you in the face.  Ivor Raymonde, the producer of choice (or really, one had no choice then) knows how to build up a small emotion into a large black & white sonic affair.  And I say black and white because it makes dreams that are gritty and soiled - like a love affair that ends up no where.

Dusty knows how to express the genius songwriting team Hal David and Burt Bacharach's mood of despair, but it is the Raymonde technique of putting as much sound he can into the groove, that makes it special.  And one can gather that there is a Phil Spector influence, but there is also bits of Motown as well.   The album holds well, which is not that surprising because basically its bits and pieces from the British releases.   I sit in front of the speaker with a glass of wine and I am totally thrown into another world. Dusty World, a planet full of sweet sounds.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Talonbooks : "Text in the City: Novel Novel"

A very nice blog from Talonbooks regarding the new novel, and Boris Vian as well.

Kevin Ayers

Kevin Ayers, probably the last of the great looking British pop music artist.  The ultimate non-career border-line hippy who made key albums with his first successful band The Soft Machine and in the early 70's made key solo albums with the label Harvest and Island Records.  His band The Whole World consisted a very young Mike Oldfield, the great arranger David Bedford, and avant-sax player Lol Coxhill.  And of course his long musical career with the great Robert Wyatt.

I discovered Kevin Ayers music via my best friend Gary, who insisted that he was 'it' with respect to the perfect music maker - pop career.  I didn't take to his music  right away, but I was seduced by his attitude in life - and that eventually lead me to his music.

"Song For Insane Times" from his first solo album "Joy of a Toy"

"Lady Rachel" from "Joy of a Toy"

"Religious Experience"  With Syd Barrett, or some think that Syd's on this recording.  If not on the recording, at least he was somewhere in the room.

Kevin Ayers interview 2008

Soft Machine August 25, 1968 Ce Soir On Danse

Kevin Ayers and the Whole World - Taverne De L'Olympia, May 1970 Part 1

Kevin Ayers and The Whole World - Taverne De L'Olympia, May 1970 Part 2

"May I"

Kevin Ayers passed away on February 18.  Died in his sleep.  He was 68.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Donald Richie

I woke up this morning hearing that Donald Richie had passed away.  One of the few, if not only, voices that expresses Japanese pop and historical cultural into English.  Richie was very much the door entrance to Japan, and all of its peculiar and wonderful cultural adventures that makes that country a spiritual as well as a consumer's sense of heaven.  But of course with heaven, there is always hell around the corner as well.   And Richie exposed and wrote about the culture as a living daily lifestyle.

He's mostly known for his superb books on Japanese cinema.  One can argue that if not for Richie's critical writings, we would not hear of Akira Kurosawa or Yasujiro Ozu in the West.  He organized film retrospectives for these filmmakers, as well as translating the subtitles for the English speaking world.  

Also the great beauty of his work is that he mostly focused on post-war Japan, and he had a huge net where he captured so many aspects of Japanese culture - both good, bad, great, weird, and always fascinating. 

Here are some of his books that is a must-read for anyone with even the slightest interest in the subject matter:

One of the great documents of life in Post-War Tokyo.  Richie knew everyone who was important in Post-War culture. Both in Japan and outside of Japan.  When Susan Sontag first came to Tokyo, the first person she made contact with is Richie.   For the 'interested' Westerner, Richie was the bridge between the two cultures.  He knew the high and the low in equal measures.  Also his personal observations on Kurosawa, Ozu, Oshima, and the Japanese pop cultural world is exposed in his journals.

My first introduction to the works of Ozu.  What intrigued me was not only a book on this obscure (at the time of its printing) filmmaker, but Richie's total understanding of his work and how he conveyed that into words.  Ozu seems simple, but there is nothing simple about his work, and Richie can put his work in a context with respect to modern Japan, old Japanese aesthetics, and which would make sense to an American reader.  One of the great film books.

Richie's "Inland Sea" is one of the first great travel journals regarding a specific region in Japan.  He captures the frustration, the humor, and the adventure of going out and discovering a new world (at the time).  Essential travel literature.

Probably the most important book on Japanese cinema.  He wrote it with Joseph L. Anderson, and for the most, the first introduction to Japanese film and its stars and directors.  Another essential film title for one's library.

But beyond books on Japanese cinema and being an experimental filmmaker, Richie also wrote about the Japanese tattoo, Japanese cooking, eroticism, and many book reviews for his great column in the Japan Times.  And without a doubt, he wrote highly personal books about his favorite city Tokyo, that to this day, are the best observations on that metropolis.  

For an overall of his work, check this out:

Here are two films by Donald Richie:

Donald Richie's film "Boy With Cat" (1966)

Donald Richie's film "Five Philosophical Fables (Part One)

"Five Philosophical Fables (Part Two)

"Five Philosophical Fables (Part Three)

"Five Philosophical Fables (Part Four)

"Five Philosophical Fables (Part Five)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Bryan Ferry Orchestra

"The Jazz Age" suggests happy times, but the truth it's misery as a fine art. The Bryan Ferry Orchestra goes forward by going backwards to an era of the Twenties. Before the big depression, and this has always been Bryan Ferry's playground.

I suspect that this album is Ferry's most personal work because its in a dream state of mind. The sound is total retro of a 78rpm recording, one can wonder why he didn't upgrade the sound of hot jazz? I think because his world is one of illusion and he doesn't want to break that spell. Remember even when Roxy Music were futuristic it was going to the past of Joe Meek recordings.

Oh, and I think this is Ferry's masterpiece. Laugh at me now, but the future will tell.

Steidl Spring/Summer 2013 Catalog

Steidl Spring/Summer 2013 catalog
Gerhard Steidl's masterpiece is his books.  He's a publisher out of Germany and he's been making books since 1972.  When you buy a Steidl publication, you are getting excellence.  The majority of the books are photography.   He is basically Robert Frank's publisher as well as Joseph Beuys.  He's also a bit of a rebel in the publishing world.  For instance, as book catalogs are becoming less and less presence in the 'real' world, he goes out of his way to make his catalog into a hardcover coffee-table sized book.   Business wise it must drive his financial people to go on the side of the window ledge... but he never ever compromises with the aesthetics of the book or the photographer's vision.

Bailey's East Side

David Bailey is pretty much the ultimate London image maker of the 1960's.  He has done wonderful work up to this day, but for a lot of people, he was the one who captured the essence of swinging London.  Here he goes back to his roots and captures the mood of East London, via the 60's but as well as recently as 2010.  This promises to be a very personal look into the neighborhood that very much made David Bailey.  I am very much looking forward to this book!

Ed Ruscha Los Angeles Apartments
One of the great figures in contemporary art, Ed Ruscha pretty much understands the visual culture of Los Angeles.   For an upcoming show at the Kunstmuseum Basel, Ruscha is doing an exhibit focusing on iconic L.A. apartments based on his photographs of them, but then made into drawings.  The book works on many levels.  On one level, it shows the passage from idea to photograph to drawing.  But one also gets the finished artworks as well.   Ruscha is a highly textured visual genius.  His work is smart, but also conveys to a large viewership, I think due that he knows an iconic image when he sees one.  And he knows how to comment on that aspect of a building, sign, etc.  I think this book is going to be a classic.

Paris Photo by David Lynch
David Lynch goes over the collection at Paris Photo and chooses images that appeals to him.  Here he admires works, but it is also filtered through the legendary Lynch motif, of finding the strange in the normal, and the normal in the strange.  A highly aesthetic point-of-view, anything Lynch gets turned-on by, is of great interest to us fans.  Without a doubt, great interest for the lover of photography and how an individual (Lynch) looks at that image.

... And there is a lot more.  Check out Steidl's website:

But more important try to locate this catalog. Its unusual and it is really the 'word' for contemporary photography/art as well the issues that field brings up to the world.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Updated "Exercises in Style" by Raymond Queneau

The most essential book for ANY writer. Genius-like Raymond Queneau gives us a brief narrative and re-writes it over and over again. The way of looking at a simple story is uplifting to a great height. 

This new addition has added more 'exercises' plus additional works by Johathan Lethem. Harry Mathews, Lynne Tillman, and my current fave Enrique Vila-Matas, among others. And one wonders how many times can one tell a tale?  The answer is endless.

The beauty of looking at a subject matter and tearing it apart and then re-building it again is something a writer likes to do - well, at least I like to do that.   There are two editions of this book out now, and both are published by New Directions.  I would get this one, because the text is the same as the old one, and still done brilliantly by the genius translator Barbara Wright.   But what you get here are the additional pieces plus what is  mentioned above.  Also the design work is elegant and its smaller in size, but not in content.  Small packages leads to unexpected adventures!

"Be-Bop Jazz" Dial Records (cover by Wallace Berman)

My father, Wallace Berman, did the illustration/artwork for this particular album.  In many ways this is sort of the ultimate be-bop jazz album.  Issued at the height of its greatness.

For more (a bit more) info check the link :

The Love of D.A.P./Art Books

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Michel Legrand Plays for Dancers" ("Archi-Cordes")

Michel Legrand is well-known in the music world, but the fact is, he's sort of a god, except I don't really believe in Gods, but I do believe in Michel Legrand.   A huge fan of his music that he wrote for Jacques Demy's great films and his jazz piano playing.  Well, he also did an album of Erik Satie's piano music as well.  So, basically he's excellent in whatever he does.  But this is the one album that is essential to and married to my turntable.  "Michel Legrand Plays For Dancers" (or in France it is known as "Archi-Cordes"). 

In ways it sounds like the John Barry Seven produced and recorded by Joe Meek.   Production tricks, and music that is hard to categorize  - the American market tried to sell it as a dance record via the hully-gully, the twist, and the every popular shimmy.  But the truth is's absolutely  nuts and unique.  Totally instrumental, but with back up zoom-zoom vocals and rapid strings.  Or is it an early electronic keyboard or engineering wizardry?  I hear the roots of "Sound and Vision" on Bowie's "Low" on this album.  Well, its a work of unique genius, and like nothing else he has done.  

Jazz William Claxton (Twelvetrees Press)

This is not the Tashen edition!   This is the original Twelvetress Press edition.  Remarkable design that brings out the sensuality of William Claxton's images of jazz players and the jazz world.  Beautiful twilight world where style is extremely essential.  Chet Baker loved the camera or the camera loved him.  Without a doubt Claxton's camera had an affair with him.  Intimate, sexy as well, and smart.  Must-have for those must have-it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My Review of "Phaidon Press Winter and Spring 2013 Catalog

Phaidon Press Winter and Spring 2013
As of six months ago I was the book buyer for Book Soup in West Hollywood (Los Angeles).  One of the great joys of that job was getting a publisher's catalog.  To me, it was a new adventure whenever I opened up a catalog.  Phaidon Press, out of the U.K., is truly an international press that focuses on high-end cookbooks, photography, kid's titles, art, cinema, and god everything in-between those subjects!  The press itself has a very distinctive design.  Very minimal, white, and a sense of looking at the world as a contemporary subject matter - even when it covers art history.  But there is vaguely a mid-20th Century feel about the design.  I can picture Phaidon books being part of a John Lautner architectural house.  I am going to go through the catalog, and show what's coming up for the winter and Spring 2013.

There is a new series called "Phaidon Focus" that zeroes on what they consider are modern masters in art.  These books are meant to be an introduction to the artist's work, and edited it for those who probably are not exposed to these figures before, or needed an entrance to their world.  The first batch of artists are Francis Bacon, Anselm Kiefer, Brice Marden, Robert Rauschenberg, David Smith, and of course, Andy Warhol.   The books are hardbacks, around 144 pages, and reasonably priced at $22.95.  For those who collect art books, I think its not necessary to own them.  But if you are new to these artists and this is your first step into their works, then this is perfect for you.    The release date in March 2013.

Without a doubt, one of the great American artists, is Bruce Nauman, and sadly there is not that many books out there on this man.  "Mapping the Studio" promises to be the essential monograph on Nauman.  And what gets my interest is the design work for this book.  It is comprised of 20 loose booklets held together in a hardback case by a rubber band.  This, I suspect, will be a highly collectable item.  I don't know the print-run, but I imagine it will sell-out quickly.  If I was still ordering for the store, I'll get 10 copies. Maybe more.  To reprint this book, I imagine it would take time.   So if you want it (and you should) get it as soon as possible.  Coming out in May 2013.

The book on the left page is "Vitamin D2: New Perspectives in Drawing."  Very much an essential look at contemporary drawing at this moment.  115 artists chosen by a panel of critics and curators -and for an artist a good location and title to be in!  One can endlessly debate and argue why he or she is not in the book, and that is part of the fun for these type of reference books.  Again, its a good introduction and most of the clientele for this book will be collectors, and those who are curious to know what's happening in contemporary art.   The opposite page is "Art and Queer Culture" by Catherine Lord and Richard Meyer.   This looks like to be a very interesting anthology of art that is attached to the wonderful and rich world of Queer Culture.  From Francis Bacon (who is endlessly fascinating) to Catherine Opie to newcomers (at least to me) like Lukas Duwenhogger.   I'm very much looking forward to this book!

"Biennials and Beyond: Exhibitions That Made Art History: 1962-2002."  If anything like the first volume that covered the years 1863 to 1959, this is one essential must-have in your art book collection. I don't know what exhibitions they cover in this volume, but it will be detailed information with images of the original exhibits.  I am very very excited about this book!  Coming out in April 2013.  And sorry for the blurry image above.

...And there are more titles in the catalog!  Space and time doesn't allow me to show everything, but this is a very strong season for Phaidon.  We're lucky that we have them around!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

"And On Piano... Nicky Hopkins" by Julian Dawson

I don't know why I am surprised about this, but this is a very good and enjoyable biography on one of the great session musicians ever - Nicky Hopkins. He played piano on anyone who's important in Rock n' Roll music.  The Beatles, The Stones ( a lot), The Who,  The Kinks, Creation, and his first recording session work is with Lord Sutch on the classic 'Jack The Ripper' produced by mega-genius Joe Meek, for god-sake!

In fact more likely if you hear a piano key on any good recording artist from the 1960's through out the 70's it is more likely by the hands and talent of Hopkins.  He was everywhere!  He was at San Francisco and did all the essential recordings by Steve Miller Band, Quicksilver, and then he was on every Stones album from "Between The Buttons" to "Goat Head's Soup."   My favorite work by him, by far, is on The Kinks' "Village Green Preservation Society" album.  That is superb.

The author Julian Dawson did a fantastic job in research, and writing.  Its not easy to write a biography on a somewhat obscure figure in music (although known to fanatics like me), but he makes an interesting narrative that will appeal to the fans, and those who are interested in the side-stories of Rock N' Roll history.  So in that case, this book is pretty much an essential volume that a Rock fan will want -no matter what their taste in music is.

And Nicky's life had its superb highs and really depressing lows.  A product of a loving family, but ill health for the most of his short life.  His career went up and down with additional drug and mostly drink habits.   Scientology took him out of the physical addiction in the end, but still, he suffered from how the music world was changing.  But in the nutshell it sounds like he was very much loved by the music community of its time - and you also get an inside look into the world of The Stones, which doesn't seem to be a great place to be if you are a creative musician contributing to the Stones' recordings.  The Jagger-Richard songwriting credit, is sometimes questionable.

Even though his death was tragic, it ended on a high note where he ends up in Nashville and lovin' it.   Not the easiest book to find, but music lover you, do seek it out and read it!

Hans-Peter Feldmann's "Voyeur"

I just did an event for D.A.P/Artbooks over the weekend, and it was there that I discovered the charms and artistry of Hans-Peter Feldmann.  He is an artist (even though he claims he's not) who uses second-hand photos to make books.  The one title that I am immediately attracted to is his "Voyeur."  The book is a standard size mass market paper back, and the printing of this volume makes you think of an european production of the late 50's.  The images are printed in what one would think as of newsprint.  So the quality of the images are not as important, but what it conveys is way more important.  But noting that, the images are still extremely striking. 

Mostly due to the nature of one photo among the other photos on that page and how it plays out with the page of images across from that one.  One would think its a random nature in how these images are put together, but i have my doubts about that.   The book "reads" as a visual poem, with one image interacting with the others - or you can take each image separately.  But then the logic thinking makes you try to connect the photographs together to see if it tells a narrative.  And one can either find a narrative or better yet, make one up yourself!

The photographs range from great charm, fantastic humor, to horrifying images of death and accidents. Some photographs, for instance a chair facing a landscape of some sort (one doesn't see the direction the chair is placed) feels like a period at the end of a sentence.   Feldmann has made many book of this sort, but "Voyeur" strikes me as his small masterpiece.  Also the book sticks to my brain like Peanut butter on one's tongue.  
More of his work here:

And here's an interview with the (non)artist: